Play Therapy

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Kids – and even teens – often struggle with finding the right words to express themselves. This is due to a number of factors, including limited vocabulary, cognitive development, and emotional awareness. For children who are struggling with particularly difficult feelings or situations, the ability to articulate themselves is even more difficult. That’s where play therapy comes in.

Every parent knows that play is the universal language of childhood. It’s a natural and instinctive means through which kids are allowed to explore, express, and ultimately make sense of both their inner world and the world around them. Play therapy helps children cope with emotional challenges, trauma, and behavioral issues. During play therapy sessions, kids can communicate their thoughts and feelings, express themselves, and work through struggles at their own pace – all in a safe and supportive environment.

How is Play Therapy Different from Regular Play?

Play therapy is a type of therapeutic play and differs from “regular” play in several ways:

  • Therapeutic Relationship. The key to successful therapy – from kids to adults to couples – is the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. The therapist works to build a trusting and supportive relationship with the child in a safe space, which helps to facilitate the healing process.
  • Therapeutic Intent. By nature, play is unstructured, spontaneous, and recreational. Play therapy, on the other hand, is a type of therapeutic approach that is structured and guided by a trained therapist, who uses specific techniques that are tailored to the child’s age, developmental level, and presenting concerns.
  • Structured Environment. At Deepwater Counseling, we have a dedicated play therapy room that serves as a safe and comfortable “container” for kids to freely explore and express themselves, within the guidelines and boundaries established by the therapist. This room is carefully designed and features a variety of therapeutic tools, such as art and craft supplies, therapy games, sand trays, play materials (e.g., dolls, puppets, action figures, Legos, miniatures), sensory items (e.g., therapy putty, kinetic sand, Play-Doh), books, and more. In addition to play, this room also serves as a quiet sanctuary where kids learn calming self-regulation skills such as deep breathing or mindfulness exercises.
  • Symbolic Expression. Therapists carefully observe the client’s play patterns, themes, and behaviors to gain insight into the child’s inner world. Through symbolic expression, rough careful observation of the child's play patterns, themes, and behaviors, therapists can uncover distress, unresolved conflicts, and even strengths they can help the child build upon. Through symbolic expression, children can explore and process complex emotions and themes in a safe and non-threatening way.

What are the Benefits of Play Therapy?

  • Emotional Expression: Therapeutic play offers a safe outlet for kids and teens to express a wide range of emotions, including sadness, anxiety, or anger, without fear of judgment or rejection.
  • Problem Solving: Children can improve their emotional intelligence during play therapy sessions as they learn to navigate social interactions, resolve conflicts, and develop coping strategies to manage difficult situations.
  • Trauma Processing: Play therapy can be especially beneficial for helping children process traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence, allowing them to make sense of their painful experiences and start the healing process.
  • Communication Skills: For kids who struggle with articulating themselves verbally, play therapy offers an alternative means of communication, helping them express their thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  • Empowerment: By giving children a sense of control and agency within the therapeutic process, play therapy helps build self-esteem, resilience, and confidence.

Do you think your child might benefit from play therapy? Contact us to learn more or schedule an appointment.