What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is essentially a therapeutic approach in which a variety of mediums are used to facilitate the expression of thoughts, emotions or needs from a child who would otherwise find it too difficult to express through words.
All of these elements are designed to help the child communicate feelings and thoughts and to help them understand and deal with often confusing feelings, including upsetting events such as loss, divorce, abuse, anxiety, sibling rivalry, bullying, fear and other trauma.
What brings children into therapy?
Children come into therapy for a number of reasons: aggression, bullying, acting out, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, consequences of various traumas, feelings of loss, poor reactions to divorce and so on. These reactions and symptoms are numerous, but can ultimately be broken down into 2 main issues:
- an inability to make good contact; and
- a poor ‘sense of self’.
In order for a child to make good contact with the world, he/she needs to have good use of his/her contact functions or modalities: looking, listening, touching, tasting, smelling, moving, expression of feelings, ideas, thoughts and so on. These modalities (senses, body, emotions and intellect) are what make up the ‘self’. Therefore, if a child is emotionally disturbed due to some experience, he/she will instinctively cut off the senses, restrict the body, block emotions and the mind in order to protect him/herself – the child’s ‘self’ becomes inhibited. These actions will affect the healthy growth of the child and the ensuing behaviour can further exacerbate the child’s problems.
When should I bring my child in for therapy?
It may be common for parents to believe that seeking therapy for their child would indicate some kind of parental failure, but I believe that given the benefits of art-making and play therapy, it is rather an indication of concern and deep love.
I believe that it is important that behavioural and emotional problems are dealt with as soon as possible, to avoid further pain and distress for your child as well as your family.
Primarily, if your child displays uncharacteristic or inappropriate behaviour after a stressful event or even without a specific stressor, it is advised that you speak to a professional regarding therapy.
There are various indicators such as sadness or excessive melancholy, disruptive behaviour, anxiety, inattentiveness, a rebellious attitude or an inability to cope at school or in a social environment. Children are individuals and therefore experience different feelings and emotions. In most instances the range of emotions and feelings are normal, but in some cases problems with certain feelings or emotions can create disruptions for the child as an individual and for anyone else that is involved in the child’s life on a daily basis.
Some indicators to be on the lookout for include but are not limited to:
- Aggressive behaviour
- Problems with eating, sleeping or elimination
- Loss of appetite
- Increasing number of fears and anxieties
- Decrease in school marks
- Inability to form friendships
- Lack of self-esteem or excessive shyness
- Difficulty adjusting to family changes
- Increase in headaches or stomach aches
- Trauma such as: chronic illness, hospitalisation, divorce, loss of a friend or loved one, abuse or witnessing domestic violence,
How will art-making & play therapy benefit my child?
Each child is unique and therefore experiences and benefits from art-making and play therapy in a unique way. Research has shown that some of the benefits may include:
- An increase in healthy self-esteem
- Reduced levels of anxiety
- Improved self- confidence
- Emotional growth and strength
- Developing strong and healthy coping mechanisms
- Increased levels of creativity
- An ability to adapt to new situations
- Better friendships and improved social skills
- Healthier decision-making and acceptance of responsibility
What is confidentiality?
Confidentiality is vital in art-making and play therapy and as a skilled professional, I am ethically required to keep all sessions private and confidential, unless the child is in harm’s way.
Often parents want to know what their child has done in sessions, but I will not relay any information without the child’s approval. Parents are also encouraged to NOT ask their child about what has occurred in the sessions, but to rather have the child offer this information in his/her own time if he/she chooses.