“If a child has been able in his play to give up his whole loving being to the world around him, he will be able, in the serious tasks of later life, to devote himself with confidence and power to the service of the world. ” – Rudolf Steiner
Before we talk about Play Therapy, I would like to introduce the concept of play from a child development’s perspective. Initially, a baby’s learning journey takes place mainly through observation and imitation. A baby starts interacting with their outer world by gazing at their parents, and then by attempting to repeat the sounds and movements directed at them. Parents or primary caregivers, when interacting with their infants, naturally repeat words like mother, father, water, etc., and the baby, responds by repeating those sounds until they form their first words. This is how the development of our communication begins. However, the ability to express emotions and thoughts, is complex and takes years to form, therefore, before that occurs, a child uses play to communicate and to express their “internal world”. Play becomes their first language and toys can be representations of their first words.
Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, dedicated a lot of his work to studying the importance of play in child development. Steiner concluded that free play is essential in the development of the will, the formation of identity, building relationships, and the differentiation between fantasy and reality.
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is an evidence-based approach that uses this natural, inherent response of the child, as the basis of the therapeutic process. The therapeutic bond between child and therapist is formed by meeting the child in their familiar world, through games and toys. Once the rapport between child and therapist is formed, a child is supported to express their emotions and to share about important events of their life in a non-verbal, creative and playful way, which is natural to them and that is also compatible with their stage of development.
Play therapy interventions can be directive, non-directive and a combination of both. A directive approach is when the therapist suggests a specific game like role-play for instance, and a non-directive approach is when the therapist allows the child to choose the toy or game of their preference. A variety of techniques can be used in Play Therapy sessions, these may include:
- Art: drawing, painting, clay
- Therapeutic story telling
- Role play
- Imaginative play using puppets, figurines, masks
- Sand play
- Dance, movement
Play therapy has been proved to be effective in treating a variety of presentations, including:
- Different forms of Anxiety (Social Anxiety, Separation Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety)
- Poor social skills;
- Emotional regulation;
- Children going through life changes; i.e. parents separation
- Trauma, etc.
How does it work?
An initial consult with the parent or primary caregiver is arranged before the therapist meets the child. This is an opportunity for the caregiver and therapist to talk freely about the child’s presentation, background and challenges. The role of the therapist is to create a safe, warm and inviting environment, so that, the child’s therapeutic experience is initiated by simply entering the room. The session is guided by the child’s attraction to the toys and the play naturally evolves. The role of the therapist is to be in atunemment with the child to support self-regulation, clarity and recovery.
Regular contact is kept with the primary caregivers through the therapeutic alliance; however, the main client is the child.
If you are interested in Play Therapy, feel free to contact our clinic and we will connect you with a psychologist who practices this modality.