Play Therapy is a type of therapy used with children, to help them work through emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Depending on age, children often do not have the language or understanding to talk through their traumatic experiences in the way which adults can, therefore it makes sense that they way we approach therapy would be different.
It is through play that children make sense of the world, and so it is helpful for the therapist to utilise play in the therapy room. In play therapy for kids, toys and materials are selected to allow children to explore their feelings and particular experiences.
The goals of therapy are to create a safe space for the child to work through their issues in a way natural to them. A positive relationship between therapist and child is also important as it helps the child to feel accepted and supported. This can also build self-esteem and confidence in the child.
Play therapy is a well-established, evidenced-based approach that allows children to express, communicate, and develop new skills and allows them to work through their emotional responses.
There are different approaches to play therapy, and many therapists will integrate different aspects according to the child’s age, presenting problem, and preferences.
Non-directive Play Therapy
In non-directive play therapy, the child leads the therapy session and makes the choice of what they would like to play with.
The role of the therapist is to ensure that there are a variety of toys to help explore expressive play themes – such as nurturing/real life, aggression, and emotional release. By adopting a non-directive approach and following the child’s lead, only setting boundaries when necessary and doing so in a respectful way, it is believed that the child will work through their issues instinctively when given the right conditions.
Directive Play Therapy
With a directive approach to play therapy, the therapist has a more active role, and a variety of different techniques may be used.
Games and storybooks are commonly chosen for the child, and are likely to have a specific purpose. The therapist may guide conversation and ask the child questions. Stories may be created using dolls, toys and puppets. Art activities may also be used to help the child express and cope with their emotions.
While play therapy can help many children overcome emotional and behavioural issues, it may not be appropriate for everyone. An assessment prior to working with children is required to determine how best to provide support for that particular child. And, in some cases where children are displaying challenging behaviours, the most effective intervention may involve working primarily with caregivers.
Author: Tegan Gonczar, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed (Secondary).
Tegan Gonczar is a Brisbane psychologist with experience in providing psychological counselling to children, adolescents and adults; she has a passion for working with people of all ages, to help them overcome obstacles, learn effective ways of coping and lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
Bookings and Fees: To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Tegan Gonczar, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- Geldard, K. & Geldard, D. (2008). Counselling children: A practical introduction. London: Sage Publications.
- Landreth, G. L. (2012). Play therapy: The art of the relationship. New York: Routledge.
- Landreth, G. L., Sweeney, D. S., Ray, D. C., Homeyer, L. E. & Glover, J. G. (2010). Play therapy interventions with children’s problems. New York: Aronson.