The Benefits of Play Therapy

Play is children's Language

Play Therapy

Play is a child’s language. Play therapy is to children what talk therapy is to adults Adolescents and adults use languages like English, Spanish, French to express themselves. However, no matter what verbal language children speak, children express themselves best through their natural language—the language of play. In the playroom, toys, games and activities are used like words. Children are provided therapeutic toys to enable them to say with the toys what they have difficulty saying with words…. They can use dolls, puppets, paints, or other toys to say what they think or how they feel. Many times difficult things happen in life and even the adults involved have difficulty understanding or explaining the events or their feelings about the events. It is easy to see why children, who lack the verbal skills of an adult, find it even more difficult. Play therapy allows children the opportunity to work through, heal, and move past the difficult times in their lives. It does all this in the most efficient, effective, and child focused manner available. So for most childhood problems play therapy is the most affordable way to help your child resolve their issues and best of all, not only does it work wonderfully, children love it!

Through Play Therapy children learn about themselves and their surroundings, their capabilities, their limitations, they learn new skills, learn how to handle anger and frustration, heal, work through difficult times, and increase their self-esteem and ability to communicate. If a child needs counseling, play therapy is usually the answer. In fact, extensive research strongly supports the effectiveness of play therapy on a most social, emotional, behavioral and educational problems. Some of these problems include depression, anger, ADHD, anxiety/fears, conduct disorders, abuse issues, aggression, post-traumatic stress disorders, low self-esteem, poor social skills, impulsivity, learning difficulties, divorce issues, coping skills issues, handling trauma, grief, divorce or many other childhood problems.

Even Adults need Play and Play therapy can be used in sessions with any age as Plato describes in the early 400’s: play has been recognized as important since the time of Plato (429-347 B.C.) who reportedly observed, “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

How Will Play Therapy Benefit A Child?

How Will Play Therapy Benefit A Child?

Per the Association of Play Therapy, Play therapy is implemented as a treatment of choice in mental health, school, agency, developmental, hospital, residential, and recreational settings, with clients of all ages (Carmichael, 2006; Reddy, Files-Hall, & Schaefer, 2005). Play therapy treatment plans have been utilized as the primary intervention or as an adjunctive therapy for multiple mental health conditions and concerns (Gil & Drewes, 2004; Landreth, Sweeney, Ray, Homeyer, & Glover, 2005), e.g. anger management, grief and loss, divorce and family dissolution, and crisis and trauma, and for modification of behavioral disorders (Landreth, 2002), e.g. anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), autism or pervasive developmental, academic and social developmental, physical and learning disabilities, and conduct disorders (Bratton, Ray, & Rhine, 2005).
Research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: children whose problems are related to life stressors, such as divorce, death, relocation, hospitalization, chronic illness, assimilate stressful experiences, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and natural disasters (Reddy, Files-Hall, & Schaefer, 2005). Play therapy helps children:

  • Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
  • Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
  • Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.
  • Learn to experience and express emotion.
  • Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.
  • Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.

Meta-analytic reviews of over 100 play therapy outcome studies (Bratton et. al., 2005; Leblanc & Ritchie, 2001) have found that the over-all treatment effect of play therapy ranges from moderate to high positive effects. Play therapy has proven equally effective across age, gender, and presenting problem. Additionally, positive treatment effects were found to be greatest when there was a parent actively involved in the child’s treatment.
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How Long Does Play Therapy Take?

Each play therapy session varies in length but usually last about 30 to 50 minutes. Sessions are usually held weekly. Research suggests that it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions to resolve the problems of the typical child referred for treatment. Of course, some children may improve much faster while more serious or ongoing problems may take longer to resolve (Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002).