What is Play Therapy?

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” PLATO

“Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult.”
British Association of Play Therapists
Play therapy

Play is a child’s natural form of expression. Play therapists use play to understand and communicate with children about feelings, thoughts and behaviour. Rather than having to talk about difficult feelings or upsetting events, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling pressured. Play Therapists receive extensive training in child development and attachment.

Why should I use it?

Play therapy has been used for over 60 years to provide emotional support to children and help them to learn more about their thoughts and feelings. Play therapy can be used with a general outcome in mind, for example: reduced anxiety or improved self-esteem. It can also bring about more specific change in behaviour and relationships. Sometimes children play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in the therapy room in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their life now. Children may also learn better ways to manage relationships and conflict.

The play therapy available through TESSA is mainly non-directive, meaning that the child is free to play without direction from the therapist. The idea is that given the chance to play and speak freely a child can work through their own difficulties. The child may play with a range of resources that encourage dramatic play or associations. These include dolls and other toy figures such as animals and cars, as well as puppets, crayons, sand and water trays, musical instruments, art materials, books and dressing-up clothes. The therapist supports the process without interference or interpretation.

How do I know it is right for my child?

A play therapist will listen to your concerns about your child and family. They will review the child’s history and find out about their challenges so they can help your child make sense of them. The therapist may ask your permission to contact the school and other significant adults in the child’s life.
Therapists usually work with a child on a one-to-one basis, yet parental involvement and support is important. The therapist will meet with you at regular intervals to discuss progress in therapy sessions and at home. However they will not disclose specific details of your child’s sessions. This is important to maintain a child’s trust and feelings of safety with the therapist.

Research shows that non-directive play therapy is equally effective for boys and girls of all ages and in individual or group settings.