This week is National Play Therapy Awareness Week! The effectiveness of play is seen everyday at Your Best Self. In this blog, we will walk you through the basics of play therapy and how we utilize play therapy techniques in our practice.
What Is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is an umbrella term used for treatment methods involving and valuing the power of play. A therapist uses play to help a child address and resolve psychological and psychosocial challenges.
Why Play Therapy?
Renowned play therapist Garry Landreth wrote, “toys are children’s words and play is their language.” Makes sense doesn’t it? On a scientific level, the Broca’s area of the brain plays a key role in language development and is located in the prefrontal lobe. The prefrontal lobe is one of the last brain regions to fully develop, making complex language also something that takes time to develop. So, while a child may have similar experiences to an adult, they do not yet have the language to accurately process and express their experiences, thoughts and feelings. Play therapy gives children ages 3-12 the outlet to do so. Another reason it works is because it “provides a safe psychological distance from their problems,” (Association for Play Therapy).
What it looks like at Your Best Self
At Your Best Self, we employ several different forms of play therapy, depending on the developmental level of the child, child’s temperament and challenges.
Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT)
CCPT is one of the most researched forms of play therapy. A child enters the room and is able to choose what he or she wants to play and the therapist follows their lead. This theory is based on the idea that the child is capable of directing their own self-exploration and finding their own resolutions, instead of the therapist imposing their own ideas. It is assumed that they will find healthier ways to combat solutions if they are given the freedom to explore possible solutions.
At Your Best Self, we will often use this treatment approach with children hesitant to enter the therapeutic room, lacking higher level language skills, showing the need for self-resolution and for the therapist to gain insight into the child’s inner world. This play is imaginative and non-directed and often involves dolls/ figurines and doll houses, costumes, puppets, blocks and art supplies.
Directed Play Therapy
Directed play is used with kids to build on clearly identified underdeveloped social/emotional skills, touch upon current hot topics in the child’s life and to build rapport with the child.
The therapist will direct the child to participate in a specific activity they feel will be beneficial. This occurs in many forms and is the most often used technique at Your Best Self, because the possibilities to connect and aid in growth are endless!
Here are a few examples of how we use non-directive play therapy techniques:
-Asking a child to use legos, or paints to express a feeling
-Using therapeutic board games, or even using common board games like Candy Land in a therapeutic way (e.g. “When you land on red, tell about something that makes you angry”)
-Playing Uno with a tween to help them open up
-Asking a child to build a sand picture with figurines to depict a trauma they’ve endured
-Using scenarios with puppets to act out conflict resolution
New play therapy techniques are constantly being published. At Your Best Self we are committed to staying up to date with the latest evidence-based approaches in play!