I am blessed. In my role as a professional mental health counselor I get to help children and families grow and heal. The way I get to do this with children is by using a counseling approach called Play Therapy. Play Therapy is a specialized counseling approach that was developed (more than 70 years ago) especially for children. Professionals who have gone through specialized training and certification are called Play Therapists (see www.a4pt.org). I am a Registered and Certified Play Therapist and I use Play Therapy in my counseling work with children.
I am writing this to introduce you to play therapy; it may not be what you think (I also really love talking about Play Therapy–I thought this was a good opportunity). It’s probably important that I start off by telling you that I have been doing Play Therapy for 20 years, I teach Play Therapy, and I write books and articles about Play Therapy; can you tell I am passionate? I also should tell you that I learned a lot about Play Therapy from the children I have been lucky enough to work with and even from my own children.
Let’s get down to is; what is Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is a therapeutic approach to counseling. It is typically used with children, but can be adapted for adolescents and adults. There are many forms of Play Therapy however the one thing that is consistent among all forms is that play is viewed as communication and part of the healing process. As parents, you already instinctively know this; play is communication and play heals. I’ll give you an example: When my daughter, Leah, was two years old she used to play this game where she would put all of her dolls and stuffed animals on dish towels. She would have nearly twenty of these lined up on the floor of our living room. She would walk between the rows of dolls and moved her hands in a circular fashion. I watched in awe, thinking, “Wow, this kid is strange.” Then one day I had to pick her up from day care early. It was naptime when I arrived. What I saw when I got there was a room full of children lying on mats on the floor; it looked just like my den! The day care providers sat between the children and rubbed their backs in that same circular motion Leah had been playing out. You see she was playing out her life, communicating through play her experience.
The healing part of play is also something we are familiar with as parents. We watch our children repair relationships with other children, go from sad and angry to blissful, from anxious and distracted to calm and focused when they play. Play Therapy capitalizes on these natural communicative and healing aspects of play and uses them in conjunction with traditional therapeutic means to help children heal and grow without having to rely on approaches to therapy and counseling that are suited for adolescents and adults.
To learn more about Play Therapy and Credentialed Play Therapists in your area check out www.integrativecounseling.us. To learn how to adapt Play Therapy strategies and lessons to your parenting download the free podcast http://www.blogtalkradio.com/freakishlywellbehavedkids.