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 and emotion labeling may be difficult.
Play Therapy helps children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.
The outcomes of Play Therapy may be general e.g. a reduction in anxiety and raised self-esteem, or more specific such as a change in behaviour and improved relations with family and friends. Play Therapy UK (PTUK) show that there can be a 74-83% improvement for a child or young person when therapists adhere to PTUK’s teachings which are based on Virginia Axline’s Eight Principles.
Axline was one of the earliest pioneers of person centered – (also known as child-led or non-directed) Play Therapy. Her principles promote the following:
That the therapist must develop a warm and friendly relationship with the client
And should establish a safe and space for the child that they can feel free to express themselves.
That they are alert to a child’s feelings and reflects these back to enable the child insight into their behaviour.
Accepting them as they are, maintaining a deep respect for the child to solve his/her problems.
In the child’s own time, never rushed.
The creative materials in the room can act as a focus for the child or young person, enabling them to process their thoughts in a safe, unchallenged way, free from judgement. Play therapists may also bring toys and materials that could be considered too young for the child’s actual age, for examples, dolls, and soft toys. The reason being that, at times, especially if the child or young person has experienced trauma, they may miss particular developmental stages. Enabling them to go back and rediscover the joys of bubbles, soap, clay, even mud! (messy and tactile play) help to fill in the missed stages in their development and can actually help repair some of their problems in the present, and may well help enable them to move forward.
Here are just some of the materials and things we use in sessions:
- Clay and sculpturing
- Sand tray and miniatures
- Therapeutic tales (designed with the individual child/young person in mind)
- Creative visualisations, deep breathing and relaxation exercises
- Traditional games
- Construction and 3d materials
- Role play
- Music, dance and movement
- Art and crafts: drawing and painting
All the toys and materials can help give form to the child/young person’s inner world and offer the them the opportunity to express feelings safely