Why & How Play Therapy Can Help

According to a 2007 research report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is absolutely essential to healthy development as it supports the social, emotional, cognitive and physical health of children. The report goes on to explain that play provides an optimal opportunity for parents to have meaningful connection with their children. (The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by Kenneth Ginsburg).

As a registered play therapist I have worked with hundreds of children using play therapy and I can attest to the healing power of play! I also understand that it’s important for parents to receive information as to why and how play is so important to helping their children learn and grow.

Benefits of Play

Garry Landreth is one of the most revered leaders and educators in the field of play therapy and he authored the well-known guide book for child centered play therapy called Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship.

Landreth has spoken about the benefits of play therapy for children:

  • Play provides stress relief.
  • Play strengthens relationships.
  • Play inspires creative expression.
  • Play helps children express and manage emotions.

What is Play Therapy?

The Association for Play Therapy defines play therapy as a an interpersonal process between therapist and client based on an established theoretical orientation model through play therapists (who have received extensive training) use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients either prevent or resolve psycho-social challenges and reach optimal growth and development.

There are many approaches to the process of play therapy. Some are very child-centered. The child centered play therapy approach allows for children to experience empowerment through the process of freely choosing, expressing and exploring in the play room. The play itself is a powerful agent of positive change and growth but is also with the attentive presence and acknowledgement of a mental health professional who is specifically trained in the art of play therapy.

There are other forms of play therapy that provide more directive and facilitative play-based interventions focused on providing a child a specific opportunity to learn adaptive skills for expression and understanding.

Regardless of the approach used, all play therapy helps therapists to form a very important therapeutic bond with the child through play either unstructured or structured play.

There is empirical research data that demonstrates play therapy is significantly effective for children experiencing many social, emotional, and behavioral issues.

Why & How Play Therapy Can Help

Sometimes parents feel a degree of confusion and even resistance to the idea of bringing their child to play with me in my play room.  I understand that and I enjoy helping parents understand how and why play therapy works. I make sure I spend time with parents first answering questions and explaining more about how and why play therapy can help.  Here are some of the points I like to share with parents:

  • Play is the way children explore, express and experience especially since they do not yet have the cognitive development to express with full verbal ability as an adult does. I am specifically trained to meet children where they are emotionally and developmentally in order to understand what they are experiencing.
  • Play is the way children act out the events or beliefs that are causing them distress. The play serves as a set of metaphors and we I am trained to help children experience natural resolution through the process of play.
  • Play has been shown to be the optimal and effective way to form meaningful connection with children so they can have reparative experiences in the play room.
  • Play naturally helps relieve stress. In the play room children are able to release pent-up tension and this helps them learn naturally how to regulate and manage big emotions.

This video below is one produced and presented by the Association for Play Therapy which I find can be helpful for parents to watch in order to better understand why and how play therapy can help their children.

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