"Play is a child's natural medium for self-expression." - Virginia Axline
Play is like language for a child. Play therapy is an avenue for children to express themselves and to be understood. It is a wonderful way to help them make sense of things in their lives and to help them learn to respond in healthy ways. Today’s neuroscience lends a great deal of evidence that Play therapy can work to address all sorts of challenges that children face. And, grown-ups, we can use Play therapy for you, too!
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all applying the therapeutic benefits of play. Play therapy helps children to address and resolve their own problems and builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world around them.
APT 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 aims to help a child’s growth and development. The practice of play therapy requires extensive, specialized education, training, and experience. With our knowledge and background, we will work collaboratively with you to set your child up for success.
Play therapy provides children with a way to express and communicate feelings, experiences, thoughts, and concerns. Children have trouble expressing their feelings through words because it is a developmental skill that has to be developed and strengthened over time. Play comes naturally to children and is important for development, learning, and cultivating relationships; these are important skills to have throughout the life span.
Video copyright of the Association for Play Therapy
Play therapy can help children:
- Become more self-aware
- Regulate emotions
- Reduce anxieties
- Promote creative thinking and problem-solving
- Encourage effective communication of needs
- Feel more confident
- Learn new social skills and relational skills with family
- Play out difficult feelings or stressful experiences for better self-regulation
- Safely express tough feelings to gain a sense of relief
- Become more responsible for their behaviors and develop more successful strategies
- Cultivate empathy and respect for the thoughts and feelings of others
- Develop self-efficacy and a better assuredness about their abilities
Play therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of social, emotional, and behavioral concerns including stressful and traumatic experiences.
Play therapy can help your child with:
- Aggressive and challenging behaviors
- Attachment issues
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Bullying/Peer relationships
- Challenges with school and academic motivation
- Divorce/Blended families
- Grief and Loss
- Life transitions (i.e. a move, blended family or sibling birth)
- Low frustration tolerance
- Social skills
Sand Tray Therapy is a form of expressive therapy. This non-verbal method of therapy is often used with children but can be applied to adults, teens, couples, families, and groups as well. Sand tray therapy allows a person to construct their own microcosm using miniature toys and colored sand. The newly created microcosm then acts as a reflection of the client’s own life and allows them the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and connect to their inner being, and recognize the beauty of their own soul as they begin to accept themselves.
Sand tray therapy for Children experiencing Trauma, Neglect or Abuse
Many children are unable to vocalize their emotional state as a result of trauma or extreme neglect or abuse. Incorporating the element of a familiar medium, the sand, allows a child to instantly achieve a sense of comfort and security. With little instruction from the therapist, the child is free to play and develop his or her own expression of situations. Often times the children will experience a sense of independent play and will begin making assumptions and behavior changes without cues from the therapist. This method of therapy serves as a valuable and powerful outlet for children and an incredibly insightful method of gaining access to their traumatic experiences.
Sand tray therapy for Adults
Adults who have been traumatized, or who cannot express their emotional state verbally or through other cognitive means of therapy, respond well to sand tray therapy. The environment presents an atmosphere free from threats, violence, and retribution and the clients are capable of acting out any scenarios that present themselves. The therapist works with the client to alter the positions of the miniature objects as a representation of the true people and events. By beginning to facilitate change on a fictitious level, a person gains the courage and ability to recognize that these same changes can be made in their own life.