The Association for Play Therapy (www.a4pt.org) defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
Play therapy is an effective form of therapy for children and adolescents ages 2 and above. The conflicts and issues that brought the family to therapy are worked through within the playroom. It is utilized to help children express what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings (Gil, 1991). It is a relationship-based method of treatment where the child is able to grow and change for the better when in a safe and accepting environment. This type of therapy allows children to freely express themselves through toys, sand trays, and art. Toys are like the child's words and play is the child's language. It provides insight and resolution into inner conflicts, and helps the child better understand their world.
Research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: children whose problems are related to life stressors, such as divorce, death, relocation, hospitalization, chronic illness, assimilate stressful experiences, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and natural disasters (Reddy, Files-Hall & Schaefer, 2005).
how long does it take?
Sessions typically last 30-50 minutes and held weekly. According to research, it takes approximately 20 sessions to resolve the problems of children referred for treatment (Carmichael, 2006). Family therapy is often utilized to incorporate more effective tools and positive ways of functioning in the home to overcome common behavioral issues.
common play therapy goals
- Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
- Build self-efficacy and confidence regarding abilities.
- Learn to experience and express emotions.
- Increase self-responsibility at home and school.
- Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.
- Improve level of communication among parents, children, and peers.
Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.