© 2017 Dr Dvori Blumenau

About Play Therapy

Why do children play?
 

According to Oaklander (1988), play is the child’s form of improvisational dramatics. But it is more than that, playing is how the child tries out his world and learns about his world. Play is therefore essential to his healthy development. For the child, play is a serious, purposeful business through which he develops mentally, physically and socially.

 

Why is play in therapy an excellent tool for healing?
 

Play is the child’s form of self-therapy. While adults process their life events through talking, children do so through play. Play allows children to process and work through issues such as: confusion, anxiety and conflict. When this is done in the presence of a therapist, she can reflect on the feelings and issues that the child brings to the play. This, in its own right, has a tremendous healing capacity. The therapist can also empower the character with whom the child identifies, by stressing “the character’s” assets. She can look into possible solutions together with the child, while the focus is on the metaphoric character (so it is less threatening). Through play, the therapist is able to get to know the child better and to be able to locate where in the child’s life the issue lies. For example, when a therapist notices repetition of a certain event, she might want to find out from the child how this event is related to his life. Noticing which one of the characters he identifies with, who the other characters are, etc. could generate vital information regarding the child’s challenges. At times the different characters symbolise the different parts of the child’s personality. Hence, with the aid of a therapist, a child could get in touch with those parts of his/her psyche and learn to accept them all and use the right ones at the right times.

 

Hence, play serves a vital function for the child. It is far more than just the frivolous, light-hearted, pleasurable activity that adults usually make of it.

Why do children play?
 

According to Oaklander (1988), play is the child’s form of improvisational dramatics. But it is more than that, playing is how the child tries out his world and learns about his world. Play is therefore essential to his healthy development. For the child, play is a serious, purposeful business through which he develops mentally, physically and socially.

 

Why is play in therapy an excellent tool for healing?
 

Play is the child’s form of self-therapy. While adults process their life events through talking, children do so through play. Play allows children to process and work through issues such as: confusion, anxiety and conflict. When this is done in the presence of a therapist, she can reflect on the feelings and issues that the child brings to the play. This, in its own right, has a tremendous healing capacity. The therapist can also empower the character with whom the child identifies, by stressing “the character’s” assets. She can look into possible solutions together with the child, while the focus is on the metaphoric character (so it is less threatening). Through play, the therapist is able to get to know the child better and to be able to locate where in the child’s life the issue lies. For example, when a therapist notices repetition of a certain event, she might want to find out from the child how this event is related to his life. Noticing which one of the characters he identifies with, who the other characters are, etc. could generate vital information regarding the child’s challenges. At times the different characters symbolise the different parts of the child’s personality. Hence, with the aid of a therapist, a child could get in touch with those parts of his/her psyche and learn to accept them all and use the right ones at the right times.

 

Hence, play serves a vital function for the child. It is far more than just the frivolous, light-hearted, pleasurable activity that adults usually make of it.

What kind of challenges can play therapy address?
 

Research shows the effectiveness of play therapy regarding a wide variety of challenges within the emotional, social, behavioural and learning domains. These challenges include: depression, anxiety, post- traumatic stress, impulse control, aggression, conduct disorder, ADHD, low self esteem, social withdrawal and more.

 

Play therapy has been successfully used with children who have been through difficult life circumstances such as: death of relatives, divorce, illnesses, abuse (sexual, emotional, physical), neglect, relocation, domestic violence and natural disasters.

Play therapy empowers children to:
 

• Recognise and get in touch with their feelings;

• Accept all the parts of themselves, the pleasant and  unpleasant ones, and learn to accept others;

• Take responsibility for their behaviour and change to more adaptive ones;

• Develop better coping mechanisms and creative solutions to their problems.

How long does play therapy take?
 

Although this varies from child to child, it takes the average child usually about 20 sessions. Problems which are not severe take less time and those which are more severe, may take longer.