What is Play Therapy?
Play is the language of children, and serves an important function in children’s psychological, mental, and social development. Play is the most effective and natural medium for children to communicate, grow, and heal. Play Therapy is essentially a way to provide therapy to children without a reliance on traditional counselling methods that require adult-like verbal and language skills.
Play Therapists are trained to observe, interpret and help children resolve presenting issues through various forms of play. During play therapy, children will create play that resembles difficult or traumatic experiences that are intrusive and disruptive. A trained play therapist will facilitate purposeful play to address their distress, and help the child heal and gain mastery over their experience. This will lead to a reduction of symptoms such as acting out and aggressive behaviour, withdrawal and regression, somatic complaints, and emotional disturbances.
When a child attends a play therapy session, they will be welcomed into a playroom where they may interact with the Play Therapist, and use a wide range of therapeutic toys and materials. The child leads the play, and is given permission to choose from any of the toys and material available. It is within this context that the child explores and processes their feelings about a particular event or relationship they may be experiencing. The Play Therapist also provides specific play-based games and activities that help to attain the individualized treatment goals. Children between the ages 4-12 are typically referred to play therapy because it is a developmental appropriate method of assessing and treating children.
Parents/caregivers are a vital part of the assessment and treatment of children. Their participation is ongoing, and begins with the initial assessment and treatment planning. Parents and siblings may also be included in some sessions with the child. In some cases, the therapist will encourage the parent/caregiver to practice play at home with their child to further extend and expand the play therapy process.
Play Therapy is a healing process for children, which resembles the emotional experiences they continue to struggle with and attempt to resolve internally. For most children, they are unable to verbally express their experiences and internal conflict. In the playroom, children will select toys to include in their play that recreate and represent these challenges. Children’s play then creates efforts to resolve and gain mastery over the presenting challenges.
Research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing a wide range of challenges including trauma, anxiety, depression, behavioural challenges, impulse control, bullying, academic difficulties, loss, divorce/separation, attachment issues, and abuse.
What is the educational background of someone practicing Play Therapy?
Children and families deserve a qualified and competent professional to work with their sensitive and personal matters. A Play Therapist has a graduate degree in the social service field that is centred in helping individuals, families, groups, and communities enhance individual and collective well-being. The Certified Play Therapist also has a minimum of 2,000 general practice hours in addition to clinical therapy and extensive supervision from Certified Play Therapy Supervisors (CPT-S).
What can I expect when I contact Aspire Youth Services?
When you call contact Aspire Youth Services, please leave a message with the service you are seeking and your contact information. A therapist will contact you to discuss your availability for an initial consultation, and to answer any questions you may have. Once you have decided to move forward, a schedule will be created that works best for the family.
What do the play therapy rooms look like?
A Play Therapy room is a warm and inviting space, which offers children and adults a wide range of toys, games, and sensory objects that they may explore and choose from.
How often should I bring my child to Play Therapy?
The frequency and duration of visits depends on each child’s particular needs. It is typically recommended that children attend once a week to build comfort and predictability within the play space and with the practicing therapist. When there is a sense of safety and a predictability, the healing process can begin for your child. After some time, some parents prefer to reduce sessions to bi-weekly or monthly. Your therapist will work with you to discuss and plan any intentional changes to the therapeutic work.