Play Therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy approach that was formally introduced in 1921.
This approach is primarily used with children but can benefit clients of all ages.
Play is a very effective way for a therapist to build a positive relationship with the client, helping the client feel comfortable and engaged, have fun, and begin to let their guard down. During a session, the therapist creates a safe environment, typically in the playroom or in a therapy office, in which the child is allowed to play with as few limits as possible. The room will contain a selection of specifically chosen toys, games, activities, and sensory objects that are meant to encourage the client to express his or her feelings and develop healthier behaviors and coping skills. The client’s interactions with these objects essentially serve as their symbolic words. This allows the therapist to learn about specific thoughts and emotions a client may find difficult to express verbally.
Choosing the Right Toy for Expression
Toys used in therapy may include a sand tray with associated miniature figurines, art materials, building blocks or other construction toys, costumes or other clothing, stuffed animals, puppets, dolls, a dollhouse with miniature furniture, indoor sports equipment, puzzles, and other indoor games. The therapist may also incorporate the use of tools and techniques such as playdough , therapeutic storytelling, music, dance and movement, drama/role play, and creative visualization.
At first in play therapy clients are generally allowed to play as they wish.
As treatment progresses, the therapist may begin to introduce specific items or play activities which are related to the issues the client is facing.
Play therapy may benefit the client in a variety of ways such as encouraging creativity, promoting healing from traumatic events, facilitating the expression of emotions, encouraging the development of positive decision-making skills, introducing new ways of thinking and behaving, learning problem-solving skills, developing better social skills, and facilitating the communication of personal problems or concerns.