Most parents don’t like to admit that their child needs help beyond what they can provide. After all, we want to be able to do everything possible for our children. We should be able to protect them, sooth their troubles, keep them happy. But, in some cases, parents fall short, not by any fault of their own. Sometimes, it just takes assistance from a professional to help with the seemingly insurmountable problems or challenges many children face.
Seeking therapy for your child shouldn’t be viewed as a failure. As a matter of fact, it takes a strong parent or guardian to admit that their child could benefit from therapy. Furthermore, there is no shame in struggling with one’s mental health, whether the individual is 5 years-old or 55 years-old. Therapy – for anyone of any age – can be the answer to living a more docile, happy life and it’s well worth giving it a try when a solution seems unattainable on your own.
Who can benefit from Play Therapy?
It’s tough for little ones to express how they’re feeling. Often, they simply don’t have a good enough grasp on vocabulary to explain a problem or discomfort in their life. Sometimes that means leaving those problems bottled up where they can continue to fester. That’s why experts long ago came up with other ways for children to express their feelings.
Play therapy has long been in use in the field of mental health treatment. It works so well because play is a natural way for children to communicate, much more natural than speech, especially for the littlest therapy patients. It works especially well for children from the ages of 3 to 12.
By confronting their issues or confusion through play therapy, children can learn to cope with troubling emotions and can also come up with workable solutions on their own. Children who may benefit from this therapy include those who:
- Have lost a parent or loved one
- Have been abused or have suffered other trauma
- Are in foster care
- Have ADD or other behavioral issues
- Are anxious or depressed
What to expect with play therapy
In general, play is a way children express feelings and build problem-solving skills. As such, children’s play in a therapeutic setting can be used to discover a child’s internal conflicts, to determine negative communication patterns in families, and to help children and families to discover new techniques and strategies to address family challenges.
There are actually a number of different approaches to play therapy and each therapist will likely use a combination of these depending on the age of the child and the desired end result of the therapy.
In some cases, the approach is very non-directive. In other words, the therapist will likely just observe the child at play and then reflect on that child’s actions and verbalizations. Study of those actions will lead the therapist to interpretations about the child’s feelings and perhaps conflicts.
In other instances, the therapist may involve him/herself in the play along with the child. This allows the therapist to direct the play in a certain way that perhaps he or she saw emerging during previous play sessions. While it is not the therapist’s job to steer the child in a particular direction or to insinuate a particular problem, involvement of the therapist in the play can be extremely helpful. Sometimes, the parents or entire family are encouraged to participate as well.
For older children participating in play therapy, talk therapy can be combined as well, providing a better overall picture from those who can indeed express some of their feelings or frustrations in words.
How long does play therapy last?
It’s rare that therapy has an appointed length. Every child is different. However, most therapists who specialize in this type of therapy will recommend about a dozen sessions to start and then gauge the need for more once those have been completed.
Generally, this type of therapy happens once per week and lasts about 30 minutes but could be shorter with very small children and longer with older children. Your therapist will be able to determine the proper parameters after a few sessions with the child.
Does play therapy work?
For many families, play therapy has made a huge difference in the life of their child(ren). As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most “empirically-validated” forms of therapy used to treat children. Empirically-validated means that the therapy has been rigorously scientifically tested over and over again and was ascertained to be valid and effective.
However, play therapy works best when you employ a therapist who is specifically trained in this type of treatment. So, as you shop for a therapist with this in mind, don’t hesitate to ask for the individual’s certifications, credentials, and experience with play therapy.
At the offices of Dr. Ellie Bolgar, we offer play and art therapy for children in the Langley area and beyond. To learn more about our services, use the contact form on this website or call us at 604-371-0198.