Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.
— Friedrich Froebel

What is Play Therapy?

Play is the natural language of children and is a metaphor, or symbolic expression, of what is going on in their lives. Play is to children what verbalization is to adults. Early childhood experts agree that play is essential and facilitates learning and growth. 

Erik Erikson, an expert in human growth and development, defines play as a situation in which a child can work through experiences by creating model situations and master reality through planning and experimentation. Play offers opportunities for self-expression, mastery, and growth in a way that fits the child's development level.

Toys and other materials play a role in the therapeutic process. If play is considered the language of children, then toys are their words. Children are able to choose from an array of toys in play therapy. They are given the power to determine what toys to use and how to use the toys. Your child will hear, "You get to play with the toys in many of the ways you would like to" (not ALL, but many of the ways). If a child decides to us a toy in a destructive manner they are communicating something. The play therapist may then use limit-setting, as appropriate, to help the child learn more effective and socially-appropriate ways to express himself or herself and develop self-control. 

What role does the Parent play?

Parents, you are the most important adults in your child's life. As such, you are actively included in the therapeutic process of play therapy. You play a vital role in accurate assessment, productive treatment planning, and creating positive outcomes. Regular parent consultations offer opportunities for parents to gather and share information about their child's functioning as well as learn new ways to help their child be successful at home and at school. At times, you may be invited to participate in Filial Therapy training. This is collaborate training with parents in which they learn how to use play therapy principles and skills to enhance the parent-child relationship. Venture Counseling also offers opportunities through Kinder Training to train educators to use play therapy principles and skills within the teacher-student relationship. 

What are the benefits of Play Therapy?

Children act out at home, with friends and at school. Children misbehavior is often due to the fact that they have developed negative habits of responding and/or used up all of their own problem solving skills. Play therapy allows trained mental health professionals who specialize in play therapy, to assess and understand your child's play. A clinical play therapy setting allows a safe place for children to face their problems head on and discover healthy solutions. Play therapy allows children to address the way they think, feel, and act in various situations. This points back to the foundation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Even the most upsetting and worrisome problems can be confronted in play therapy and lead to lasting resolutions being identified, experimented, mastered and integrated into lifelong strategies. Children benefit from play therapy in many ways. Research findings support the effectiveness of play therapy with an array of social, emotional, educational, and behavioral concerns including but not limited to:

  • Anxiety/fearfulness
  • Depression
  •  Aggression
  • Post-traumatic Stress
  • ADHD
  •  Reading difficulties
  • Social withdrawal
  •  Low self-esteem/confidence

Play therapy is also helpful to children experiencing difficult life situations such as divorce, grief, relocation, illness/hospitalization, natural disasters, and violence/abuse.

What is a Registered Play Therapist?

The practice of play therapy requires extensive and advanced specialized training, education, experience, and supervision. This greater depth of knowledge and skill distinguishes a Registered Play Therapy (RPT) from individual practitioners who use therapeutic play skills. The RPT credential is conferred by the Association for Play Therapy (APT). This credential requires 150 hours of specific play therapy training, 500 hours of play therapy experience and 50 hours of supervision. Furthermore, continuing education is a requirement to maintain the credential. Only after individuals have successfully completed all of the necessary requirements, demonstrating proficiency in play therapy, do they receive the RPT credential.

 

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
— Plato