Play therapy is a form of therapy used primarily for children. That’s because children may not be able to process their own emotions or articulate problems to parents or other adults.
While it may look like an ordinary playtime, play therapy can be much more than that.
A trained therapist can use playtime to observe and gain insights into a child’s problems. The therapist can then help the child explore emotions and deal with unresolved trauma. Through play, children can learn new coping mechanisms and how to redirect inappropriate behaviors.
Play therapy is practiced by a variety of licensed mental health professionals, like psychologists and psychiatrists. It’s also practiced by behavioral and occupational therapists, physical therapists, and social workers.
In addition, the Association for Play Therapy offers specialized training programs and advanced credentials for licensed mental health professionals, school counselors, and school psychologists.
Benefits of play therapy
According to the professional organization Play Therapy International, up to 71 percent of children referred to play therapy may experience positive change.
While some children might start off with some hesitation, trust in the therapist tends to grow. As they become more comfortable and their bond strengthens, the child may become more creative or more verbal in their play.
Some of the potential benefits of play therapy are:
- taking more responsibility for certain behaviors
- developing coping strategies and creative problem-solving skills
- empathy and respect for others
- alleviation of anxiety
- learning to fully experience and express feelings
- stronger social skills
- stronger family relationships
Play therapy can also encourage use of language or improve fine and gross motor skills.
If your child has a diagnosed mental or physical illness, play therapy doesn’t replace medications or any other necessary treatments. Play therapy can be used alone or alongside other therapies.