What is Play Therapy

Using play means that the child can explore their thoughts and feelings in creative and dynamic ways, without having to use words to articulate themselves. In Play Therapy sessions, children explore their own creativity and express themselves using media such as: drawing and painting, water and clay, sand tray and miniatures, guided imagery and relaxation techniques, drama and puppetry, poetry, movement and music./p>

Talking about problems can be hard for children. A child may not have the words to describe how they are feeling, or why they are behaving as they do. A child may not be able to recognise what they find difficult or explain it to someone if asked. Play Therapy provides the expertise and time to do this through play. Play Therapy sessions aim to build a child’s ability to develop healthy and resilient relationships, and to work though traumatic experiences which may be preoccupying them. Pre-occupying difficult feelings can make learning at school or managing feelings impossible. Addressing difficult emotions through play provides a layer of story or metaphor to what is being shared and felt. Metaphor can provide a degree of removal from experience for the child. It can feel safer and less intense for a child to express themselves or explore their experiences through play.

What Happens in the Sessions?

Your child will be able to play with the wide range of resources that will be made ready for them each week. We call our selection of items our ToolKit. It includes: a large array of art and crafting materials, clay, dressing-up and role play props, musical instruments, sand and water, puppets, miniature figures, games and construction toys. Your child will be able to choose freely what they would like to use, and the therapist will enter into their play, following their lead.

Your child will be able to work at their own pace and explore narratives and experiences in the metaphor of the play, without being asked to explain it verbally.

Over the first few sessions your child will begin to forge a relationship with their therapist and experience the consistency of the session and its predictable boundaries. The aim being that this will enable them to use the time and the therapist’s knowledge, to express themselves in their own way.

If during their sessions your child makes any artwork, it will be stored safely by the therapist until the therapy ends, at which point your child can choose if they would like to take it home.

What is my Role as a Parent in This?

Your role remains central to your child and your support of them attending therapy is important.

Your child may choose to keep what they do in their sessions private, please do not be offended or worried by this, it may well be that they have not got the words to explain it to you yet.

The Play Therapist will keep the exact details of what happens in the sessions confidential but can share with you the general themes of the play and talk to you about patterns they notice or topics that come up so that you can help your child at home.

Just as it helps not to ask for details about their sessions, it helps not to ask children to behave in a certain way when they are there. The Play Therapist does not expect or need ‘good’ behaviour in the sessions. Instead, we hope that each child comes to trust that they can express themselves freely, without judgement, in their sessions. Play Therapists are trained to understand and manage all types of behaviour, and to recognise and work with the reasons behind it.

How do I explain Play Therapy to your child?

Wait for a calm moment: What has been happening?

Explain the reasons for seeing a play therapist

    “Maybe you have been feeling confused, angry or sad.

    Maybe you feel full of worries about what might happen, or what has happened to you before.

    Maybe you have some very big feelings inside you, and they are hard to understand.

    Sometimes these painful thoughts and complicated feelings can get in the way of making or having fun with friends, or being able to concentrate on schoolwork or sports skills.

    Sometimes these thoughts and feelings can get in the way of sleeping well, thinking clearly or feeling happy and relaxed.

    Sometimes these big feelings can spill out as actions that might upset you, people around you, or get you into trouble.

    Sometimes people need help from a therapist do get back to, or to reach, a place where they feel happy and healthy.”

You can then explain that Play Therapists are trained to work with children who are going through times like these, to help you understand what has been going on, how you are feeling, and what that means.