Emerging Trends in Therapy for Children: Is Play Therapy Right for My Child?
As a parent, it can be extraordinarily difficult when you experience your son or daughter acting out towards you or other people, or when you encounter them being crippled with fear and worry. Although you are trying your best during this hard season of life to be there for your son or daughter, you feel like nobody else really understands your situation or has enough time and energy to dedicate towards listening to you and helping you out. Your mind may be spinning, and you cannot help but wonder if there is any other resource out there to help aid your son or daughter onto a path of recovery and growth.
A Snapshot of the History of Counseling Resources for Children
For decades, the theories and techniques of counseling have grown and evolved in order to provide adequate and effective counseling to individuals. But for the duration of that time such theories and techniques have focused on the teenage population and above, while children have mostly remained out of the spotlight. In more recent years the mental health field and parents alike have recognized how vital it is for children to have age-appropriate resources for mental health care, resulting in more and more parents seeking counseling for their children. With this increase in demand, the mental health field has recently focused more attention on research and development of strategies tailored to the unique needs of children.
Approaches to Play Therapy
As the world of counseling is quickly opening up to children there are an increasing number of strategies and techniques to explore. There is an abundance of research indicating that Play Therapy is a very effective counseling technique to use when working with children. According to the Association of Play Therapy, Play Therapy is, “the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.” There are a variety of different approaches to Play Therapy. One of the most commonly used Play Therapy approaches is Non-directive Play Therapy. In this approach, the therapist typically allows the child to engage in playing with the toys that are in the therapist’s room. The key to this Play Therapy approach is that the child is in control in the therapy room and can engage in the amount of play and type of play that they desire, with appropriate boundaries being set in regards to the safety of the child and therapist. Other approaches aside from Non-directive Play Therapy include Theraplay and Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
One of the main goals of Play Therapy is to help children feel safe and comfortable in the therapy room. Many children may not feel as prone to open up when they are just sitting on a couch and are not developmentally capable of carrying on a conversation for the entire session. Utilizing a therapy technique that helps children feel secure and at ease is imperative when working with children. Since most children do not make the decision to enter counseling solely on their own accord, they may need some time to feel comfortable with being in the counseling environment. Finally, play, creativity, and imagination are how children experience the world. Counselors can get a better sense of what children are thinking and feeling and how they view the world by letting children use their own language to speak.
Would Play Therapy Help Me to Connect with My Child?
Although Play Therapy is indeed centered on providing beneficial and effective counseling to children, it most certainly impacts the parents that are involved in treatment as well. The process of entering into a child’s world and imagination does not necessarily come naturally to adults. But it is a strategy that can be learned in the therapy environment and used at home to provide even more opportunity for a child to express himself to parents and caregivers. This support and training in the therapy room with a counselor can help you, as a parent, to confidently enter into your child’s own world of play, even if it means perhaps reconnecting to your own playfulness and childlikeness as well. By entering into your child’s world of play, you might gain more insights into their thoughts and feelings than you would ever have expected.
Counseling resources for both children and parents have opened new doors to supporting families through difficult seasons. If you find yourself in one of these difficult seasons with your child, perhaps reach out to a local child therapist for more information about how they might come alongside you right now. You might also visit the parents corner on the Association for Play Therapy website to learn more about the process.
Association for Play Therapy Site: https://a4pt.site-ym.com/
Alaina Knoedler received her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Wheaton College. She works with a broad population, ranging from children to adults. She has a special passion for working with children through play therapy. Alaina aims to foster a strong therapeutic relationship with clients when uncovering their life stories.
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