How Does Play Therapy Work And Benefit Children?

If it has been suggested that your child attend some play therapy sessions, you might be a bit confused. How can simply playing in a therapist's office possibly help your child work through their struggles? As it turns out, though, there's a lot more to play therapy than most people realize. Here is a closer look at how this unique form of therapy can help your child, particularly after a traumatic event or challenging experience.

Play therapy allows the therapist to assess the trauma and your child's reaction to it.

Children have a limited vocabulary and are not all that skilled at describing what they have been through, especially when the situation has been scary and unfamiliar. At the beginning of play therapy, during the first session, a therapist will simply watch your child play with a variety of toys and objects. Often, children end up acting out scenarios similar to what is bothering them and what they have been processing. For instance, a child who has witnessed a shooting may use cars and dolls to set up a scenario in which one of the dolls is shot. The way they set up these scenarios and how they make their toys react can tell the therapist more about how the child is processing the event than your child is able to describe in words.

Play therapy allows the therapist to reframe the scenario.

After observing your child's play patterns, the therapist can start joining in the play to reframe the scenario. For instance, if your child has been setting up shooting scenes, the therapist can bring in a police officer toy who steps in to save the day and bring the at-risk character to a safe place. Your child will internalize this change in the scenario, and it will make them feel more hopeful about the scenario they've been through and are recreating.

Play therapy allows for progressive observation.

As the therapist continues to play with and observe your child over time, they can observe how much progress is being made and use the changes to inform and change the approach they are taking. In a way, play therapy combines observation and treatment. There's no need for stressful evaluations or assessments; all your child really knows they're doing is playing.

Child's play therapy can be an incredibly friendly, helpful approach, especially for younger children who do not communicate well with words yet. If your child has been through trauma, this may be an option to seriously consider.