What is play therapy?
In play therapy the child uses play much as an adult might use words to express feelings and to work through experiences. Non-directive play therapy is based on the belief that children have the ability to heal themselves if given the space and support to do so. As play can be both verbal and non-verbal it gives all children access to a means of expression and learning. A trained therapist is able to respond to the symbolic nature of the play, to begin to understand parallels between the play and the child’s experiences and to respond to the child in such a way that the child feels listened to. Play therapy can be used as an assessment tool as well as a therapeutic intervention.
Play enables the child to -
- Experience and express emotions
- Allows for cathartic release of feelings
- Understand relationships
- Explore and act out troublesome situations
- Develop insight
- Develop self-esteem
- Achieve mastery
Who can benefit?
Many families are referred to a play therapy service, the reason for referral can be as a result of a single various situations and experiences may lead to the need for this intervention. Some children will benefit from as few as six sessions, while others may require a longer term involvement. The need for play therapy could be as the result of a single life event, such as bereavement, or because of the experience of a long-term stress situation such as living with disability.
Typical cases for referral to therapy may have experienced: -
- Illness (in the child or a close family member)
- Bereavement and loss
- Abuse or neglect
- Fostering or adoption
- Divorce or separation
Children who could benefit from a play therapy intervention may present with a variety of behaviours, they may be causing concern because of a new and uncharacteristic behaviour, or because of a combination of problematic behaviours.
Behaviours causing concern may include -
- Aggression and acting out or withdrawl and isolation
- Attachment difficulties and separation anxiety
- Bed wetting and/or soiling problems
- Eating or sleeping problems
- Overly fearful or anxious
- Immaturity, developmental delay and communication difficulty
- Low self esteem /li>
How play therapy can help?
Play therapy can help a child to develop understanding of their feelings, and learn to express them more appropriately. As the therapeutic relationship develops the child may feel enabled to work through conflicts and be heard, make better choices and take responsibility, while increasing their problem-solving skills. These experiences will help reduce problematic behaviours and increase self-confidence and self-esteem.
How to find a play therapist.
The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT) is the UK professional body. The minimum qualification for full membership is a Post Graduate diploma in Play Therapy. Contact details are listed below.
For further information contact:
The British Association of Play Therapists
1, Beacon Mews,
Surrey KT13 9DZ
Office Telephone/Fax 01932 828638