Home > Learning Disabilities > Play Therapy

Play Therapy

By: Miriam Vered - Updated: 29 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Play Therapy Communication Feel Learn

The underlying idea behind play therapy is that children express themselves best through the language of play. Most forms of adult psychotherapy involve talking, but children in the playroom may find they are able to communicate what they think and feel more naturally using toys, games, paints and activities rather than with words alone. Play therapists are trained to understand and communicate with children through the medium of their fantasies and symbolic play.

Some History

Play therapy was first developed early in the 20th century by some of the founders of child psychotherapy, such as Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. The initial suggestion was that a child's spontaneous play was a substitute for the free association techniques used in adult psychoanalysis. In the 1970s the idea of non-directive play therapy was developed on the premise that "No-one ever knows as much about a human being's inner world as the individual himself". Nowadays there are four training courses for play therapists in Britain, and the approach is widely used, and has been validated by a significant amount of research.

When is Play Therapy Used?

Studies have shown that play therapy is effective for a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioural and educational problems, including:
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Temper tantrums
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Sexual or physical abuse issues
  • Neglect
  • Bereavement
  • Learning difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Conduct disorders
  • Low self esteem
  • Poor social skills
  • Impulsivity
  • Divorce issues
  • Coping skills issues

How Does it Work?

Play therapists usually meet with the child alone for most of the sessions, while maintaining communication and feedback with the parents. In order to provide both child and parents with stability and consistency, sessions are scheduled for the same time each week and are held in a welcoming environment that becomes familiar. Many children may at first be unable or unwilling to acknowledge what their problem is.

The goal of play therapy is to allow them the opportunity to work through, heal and move past the difficult times in their lives by using dolls, puppets, paints or other toys to say how they think and feel. As the child plays, the therapist may recognize patterns and underlying themes or ways of using the toys that are important to the child.

Over time the therapist can help the child to make meaning from the play. The theory is that the symbolic play that the child creates reflects which issues are important to her and are relevant to the difficulties. The therapist helps her to learn about herself and her surroundings and to learn new skills, how to handle anger and frustration, work through difficult times and increase her self esteem and ability to communicate.When a child shows improved functioning at home, at school and with friends, the focus of the final sessions shifts away from examining problems and towards the process of ending treatment.

Play is Good for the Brain

Most people understand intuitively that play is good for us – adults as well as children usually feel the benefit. Studies involving brain scanning have shown that more brain regions light up in response to metaphor than to any other form of communication that forms new neural pathways. Childhood fantasy play is absolutely packed with metaphor, and new experiences that literally help to develop the brain. The old saying really sums it up - "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Aawwmmm
    Re: Savant Syndrome
    That's so cool I would be more impressed if you told me you spoke with other individuals while you were sleeping or even comprehend that there are…
    20 August 2017
  • Alex2017
    Re: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
    Hi, for many years now I am suffering severe ocd. I cannot drive car anymore, and also I get some new symptoms. Things I struggle…
    24 April 2017
  • Alex
    Re: How Does Language Acquisition Happen?
    This is a very one-sided article and only takes a nativist view into account, can be misleading for someone who has no…
    21 January 2017
  • Soulless
    Re: Savant Syndrome
    I've been able to dream the future since I was a child. Others have always told me it's just deja vu or they'll congratulate me on having a grand…
    23 August 2016
  • bj17
    Re: Literacy and Your Brain
    Does anyone have the source for more information on the changes in the brain as guerrillas learn to read?
    11 February 2016
  • pampam
    Re: How to Get Great Exam Results Using Exam Technique
    pls can some one tell me the clues to pass my exam and be the first am tired of 7th position
    29 January 2016
  • Abraham
    Re: Is Intelligence Inherited
    Peter, your comment is a sign of being not intelligent. Otherwise by that logic we'd all have black skin...Two words, GENETIC…
    3 December 2015
  • freckles
    Re: How Long Do Young Children Take to Process Information?
    I had brain trauma as a child from the age of ten yrs oldafter falling from a swing park shute…
    29 November 2015
  • BrainSkills
    Re: How to Develop Empathy Skills
    Andrea - Your Question:Hello, my partner doesn't understand what empathy means, and he doesn't know how to explain his feelings…
    27 November 2015
  • Andrea
    Re: How to Develop Empathy Skills
    Hello, my partner doesn't understand what empathy means, and he doesn't know how to explain his feelings either. I've tried to…
    25 November 2015
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the BrainSkills website. Please read our Disclaimer.