“When the individual develops sufficient self-confidence to bring his self-concept out of the shadow land and into the sun and consciously and purposefully to direct his behavior by evaluation, selectivity, and application to achieve his ultimate goal in life—complete self-realization—then he seems to be well adjusted.”
Virginia M. Axline, Play Therapy
What is Play Therapy?
Although sometimes used with adults, play therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach primarily used to help children ages 3 to 12 explore their lives and freely express repressed thoughts and emotions through play. Therapeutic play normally takes place in a safe, comfortable playroom, where very few rules or limits are imposed on the child, encouraging free expression and allowing the therapist to observe the child’s choices, decisions, and play style. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in healthier ways, become more respectful and empathetic, and discover new and more positive ways to solve problems. Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.
How It Works
Play therapy responds to the unique developmental needs of young children, who often express themselves better through play activities than through verbal communication. The therapist uses a play space where art materials, puppets, musical instruments, costumes for drama, vizualizations, sand trays and other creative activities to communicate with the child and observe how the child uses these activities to express thoughts and feelings that are not expressed in words. There are two approaches to play therapy:
Nondirective play therapy is based on the principle that children can resolve their own issues given the right conditions and the freedom to play with limited instruction and supervision.
Directive play therapy uses more input from the therapist to help speed up results. Play therapists use both approaches, depending on the circumstances.