What is Play Therapy?
To understand Play Therapy it is helpful to understand firstly the importance of play and then how play is used in a therapeutic context.
What is Play
“Play is a fun, enjoyable activity that elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life. It expands self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization and self-efficacy. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego” (Garry Landreth, 2002).
Play is the language of children. It is also vital for increasing physical strength, fine-tuning mental skills, improving reasoning and thinking processes, and for forming strong social bonds with others. Play is vital to every child's social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult. It cuts across race, culture and religion. It is universal and can also be observed in young of other species such as monkeys, bears, cats etc
What is Therapeutic Play
"It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self." D.W. Winnicot
Therapy using play helps children in a variety of ways – it can be directive or non directive.
Directive play therapy and playwork are more widely used to help a child understand some important information e.g. a forthcoming medical procedure. Play work can also be used to gain information from the child e.g. when investigating alleged sexual abuse for instance. It also describes the provision of opportunities to play e.g. playschemes
Child-centred non-directive play therapy is uniquely placed to help children and families improve their emotional well-being. Non directive Play Therapy works entirely with the child’s agenda and at his/her pace. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts.
Non directive Play Therapy (NDPT) provides an intervention which is totally child centred, with weekly appointments, so that the process can be effective.
A 6 – 8 week intervention of Play Therapy with a child can be invaluable at getting a glimpse into that child’s inner world. A longer intervention eg 10 – 12 weeks will allow a child to play out his/her issues so gaining understanding and “mastery” over them. A child can feel free to express his/her innermost feelings and fears in an environment which is safe and accepting.
"We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today."