Play Therapy

Unfortunately, children are just as vulnerable to developing mental health struggles as adults. Trauma can be especially harmful in early childhood, but kids may also deal with anxiety, depression, social or behavioral challenges, developmental delays, and a number of other issues. Our experiences in childhood can affect our behaviors, beliefs, and personalities for the rest of our lives, so it’s critical that kids receive the support they need when they’re having a tough time.
Traditional talk therapy can be helpful for children, but it may not always be the most appropriate form of treatment. Kids can have a hard time expressing their feelings verbally, and they may find it difficult to sit with a stranger and talk to them. Alternatively, play therapy can be a valuable opportunity for children to process their emotions on a developmentally appropriate level.
If your child has been struggling with mental health, developmental, social, or behavioral issues, play therapy with Menachem Psychotherapy Group could be a great treatment option for them. Play therapy honors your child’s inner self while creating a safe and comfortable environment for them to express themselves.

What Is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a form of mental health treatment that empowers children to explore and express their emotions through play. By engaging in play with the child, the therapist can assess and observe the child’s behaviors, which can give insight into their challenges or unresolved emotional struggles. Once the therapist identifies the child’s needs, they can create specific, goal-oriented activities that help the child improve their mental or emotional health. Playing is familiar and comfortable to the child, so it can feel like a safe way to process the issues they’re facing.
At first glance, a play therapy session might just look like playtime. The child and the therapist might play with dolls, stuffed animals, blocks, arts and crafts, costumes, or a wide variety of other items. However, everything involved in a play therapy session is intentionally set up to create a therapeutic environment and to help the child work toward their goals.

Who Can Participate in Play Therapy?

Play therapy is typically used with children under the age of 12. Because play is natural for all kids, any child can benefit from play therapy. There are so many different techniques and types of play therapy, and the treatment can truly be individualized to each child’s goals.
One of the most common applications of play therapy is to help children work through trauma. Kids don’t usually have the language that they need to process their trauma in words, but play creates another outlet for them to explore their experiences and express themselves. Similarly, play therapy can be a good opportunity for kids to work through family issues, like divorce or the death of a family member.
Play therapy can address other emotional challenges, too. Many people don’t realize that kids can suffer from anxiety or depression, but mental health disorders do not discriminate based on age. Sometimes, play therapists work with children who have social or behavioral issues as well. These problems can make school especially difficult for the child, so play therapy teaches them how to interact safely and appropriately with others.
Kids with developmental delays or learning disabilities can also engage in play therapy. Play can be a fun and motivating way for children to work toward their developmental goals.
In some cases, teenagers and adults can participate in play therapy. For example, adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities that affect their language skills could function better in a play therapy session than in a traditional talk therapy session. Teens or adults with unresolved childhood trauma might use play therapy to access their inner child and process these issues.

Benefits of Play Therapy

Play therapy can be instrumental in helping kids reach their developmental and emotional goals. The following are just some of the benefits that your child could experience:

Common Play Therapy Techniques

The techniques and structure of a play therapy session can vary dramatically depending on the child’s needs and goals. For example, one common therapeutic play technique is to use dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals to act out stories. This can help the child recreate stressful or scary experiences in a way that feels safe and approachable. Another common technique is to use arts and crafts as an expressive outlet for the child. Even if they struggle to articulate their feelings in words, they can use their art as a representation of their emotions.

The two main approaches to the therapy are directive and non-directive. In directive play therapy, the therapist creates structured activities and guides the child through the session. In non-directive play therapy, the child is given more freedom to explore the room on their own.
Some children have a more profound experience with therapy when they have the independence and autonomy to guide their own sessions. Others benefit from more structure. The play therapist will use the approach that they think best suits the child’s needs, or they may use a combination of directive and non-directive activities.

What to Look for in a Play Therapist

Many licensed therapists who work with children use toys, games, or other elements of therapeutic play in their sessions. However, if you want to work with a counselor who specializes in play therapy, you should look for a Registered Play Therapist, or RPT. These experts are mental health professionals who have received an advanced level of training specifically on play therapy for children. In addition to earning a master’s degree, therapists who have the RPT credential have completed additional coursework on play therapy and have received clinical supervision before receiving their license.
It’s also essential that you and your child feel comfortable around the therapist. Regardless of their experience or qualifications, not every therapist is the perfect fit for every child. So much of the work in play therapy happens through the bond between the therapist and the child, so your family should feel at-ease with the therapist.
Before you schedule the first session with a play therapist, you can talk to them about their background, their philosophy, and their approach to treatment. Listen to your instincts during this conversation to decide whether or not to work with the counselor. Sometimes, you may have to reach out to multiple therapists before you find the right one for your child.

No matter your child’s needs, play therapy can be a powerful way for them to work toward better mental health. Menachem Psychotherapy Group provides play therapy to address children’s social, behavioral, developmental, or emotional goals. To learn more about our practice or to speak with a child therapist in Los Angeles, you can contact us today.


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