Sometimes when a child is not their wholesome, healthy, happy self, play therapy can help them to process what is happening in their inner and outer worlds, and begin the journey of healing.
What is Play?
Play is when children are doing activities that are self-directed and performed for self-amusement and entertainment; they have behavioural, social, and psychomotor rewards. Children practice creativity through play as it develops their imagination and psychical, cognitive and emotional strengths. Children may find play enjoyable and natural.
Child play is unique to each child. This is because each child is on a different journey and has experienced different upbringings, relationships and experiences.
How a child plays is directly linked to what a child has been exposed to, learned and their core sense of self. Play allows the child to explore their inner self, self-define and uncover what they choose to do and what they have to do. Children become mindful of not only randomly playing, but play the way we are and what they could be. Play is a connection to possibilities.
The Importance of Play
Dr Peter Gray researched the prevalence of play today and his key findings were that children’s ability to freely play has been lost in the last 50 years. But why?
There has been a cultural shift and society now views getting ahead, materialism, and productivity to be of the utmost importance. As a result, free time and child’s play have been deemed a lesser priority. Dr Peter Gray highlights that this decrease in child-directed play is limiting children’s opportunity to play out what is happening in their world, and resolve issues for themselves.
Consequently, children adapt an external focus of control and belief that the things that are happening to them are out of their control. This leads to an incline in the numbers of children that are experiencing anxiety and depression symptoms.
How Does Play Therapy Work?
If a child is struggling emotionally, seeing a play therapist may be of benefit.
As I primarily work with children, I particularly use the modality called Child Centred Play Therapy. This was first developed by Virginia Axline in 1947 and is based on the work of Carl Rogers, one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy, as he focused on a client centred approach with working with adults.
Child Centred Play Therapy (CCPT) is based on the belief that children flourish in a relationship that has unconditional positive regard. This approach requires the play therapist to be non-judgemental, accepting, and to show genuine interest which allows the child to express themselves freely though exploration.
CCPT focuses on the child, rather than their problems. This is accomplished by the therapist allowing the child to lead and to take responsibility of the play agenda. A way I demonstrate that they are in control of the play is by stating at the start of the session: “Welcome back to the playroom, you are welcome to use any of the toys today”. This passes responsibility, control and leadership to the kiddo, and allows them to communicate though play their story, feelings, experiences and beliefs at their own pace.
Child Centred Play Therapy is comprised of four stages:
- The exploratory stage;
- The aggressive stage;
- The regressive stage; and
Each kiddo goes through these stages at their own pace, often taking between 20 to 26 sessions, however this varies for each individual child.
The Benefits of Child Centred Play Therapy
Research has demonstrated that play therapy helps the child to:
- develop respect for themselves;
- learn that feelings are acceptable;
- learn how to express feelings responsibly;
- assume responsibility for themselves;
- develop creativity and resourcefulness in confronting problems;
- learn self-control and self-direction;
- learn to make choices and be responsible for those choices (Cochran, N. H., Nordling, W. J., & Cochran, J. L., 2010).
Child Centred Play Therapy is a way of allowing kiddos to process the emotions that they may be experiencing, build confidence, self-esteem, resilience, emotional regulation, and discover ways of coping with stresses.
Author: Larissa Watter, BA Counselling.
Larissa Watter is a Brisbane counsellor, passionate about working with children. She is currently furthering her studies by undertaking a Certificate in Child Centred Play Therapy.
To make an appointment with Larissa Watter try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.
- Cochran, N. H., Nordling, W. J., & Cochran, J. L. (2010). Child-centered play therapy: A practical guide to developing therapeutic relationships with children. John Wiley & Sons.