Children may experience problems with feelings or behaviours that cause disruption to their lives and the lives of those around them. Play therapy provides a child with an opportunity to ‘play out’ their thoughts, feelings and problems just as, in certain types of adult therapy, an individual ‘talks out’ their difficulties.
It can be described as being a developmentally sensitive therapeutic modality, in which a trained play therapist uses the therapeutic powers of play to help children prevent or resolve psycho-social difficulties. Play permits the child to communicate with adults non-verbally, symbolically, and in an action-orientated manner. Play Therapists use approaches, interventions, media, and activities that are appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the client.
Children enter into a dynamic therapeutic relationship with the therapist, which enables them to express themselves, explore and make sense of the world in which they live, and resolve any difficult or painful experiences through the medium of play.
Any child can benefit from play therapy. It promotes self-confidence, imagination, creativity, concentration, communication, problem-solving skills, self-esteem, and most importantly the happiness of the child. Play Therapy is suitable for children as young as two or three years old and there is no upper age limit.
Play therapy is relationship based – the power of the therapy comes from the strength of the relationship between the Play Therapist and the child.
Children must be approached and understood from a developmental perspective. They must not be viewed as miniature adults. Their world is one of concrete realities and their experiences are often communicated through play. Unlike adults whose natural medium of communications is verbalisation, the natural medium of communication for children is play activity.
– Landreth, 1991