Play therapy for children? …….What is it and what makes it work?
Consider the following case:
“I don’t get it!,” said the father of a young five year old client, “every time my son comes out of session and I ask your counselor how did things go today she replies, “He played”. “Well, I get that”, said the father, “but my son plays at home!”. The counseling center’s director quickly assured the father the therapist was very competent and began promising he would investigate the concerned father’s claims. To which the father forcefully replied, “No, wait! You are not understanding. I didn’t mean that I’m dissatisfied! I mean I just don’t get it…..my son is really getting better! He is happier, more cooperative, less meltdowns at school. What’s the deal?”.
So why does Play Therapy work? Children are brought to counseling because abnormal behavior is creating concern for parents or teachers. In most cases some form of psychological trauma in the child’s environment is the culprit. They have been exposed to neglect, divorce, bullying, loss of relationships, school pressure and a host of other situations which detract from their progress toward normal development.
Unable to verbalize their emotional disturbance…children ‘act out’ their pain with outbursts, problems sleeping, poor school performance, withdrawing, a distorted view of themselves and inability to be joyful and lighthearted
In Play Therapy children reveal to the therapists their unique interests and what they need to heal. They play in sand trays, build magnificent towers, arrange contents of playhouses…destroy and then rearrange them. Children are ‘in control of their world’ in the Play Therapy room. Feeling respected, acknowledged and safe they successfully process their trauma without having to verbally explain. Their little minds and hearts open in ways talk therapy never could.
The five year old client began to blossom in both his school and home environments and once again freely expressing himself as an emotionally healthy child. He even adjusted nicely to a new blended family dynamic. What had happened to him was emotionally disturbing, but his emotional world didn’t to stay that way. Child centered Play Therapy allows children to move through their trauma in ways that respect their unique, inner psychological system allowing age appropriate emotional and intellectual advancement. There is a God-given wisdom in children that promotes inner healing when the proper, safe emotional space is provided. Play Therapists have been taught this unique healing by wonder-filled children….and they in turn pass healing along to others. “We have been comforted in your comfort”, 2 Cor. 7:13