Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. –Abraham Maslow (psychologist)
Why Use Play in Counseling and Therapy?
Play provides a vehicle for communication that is non-threatening, non-intrusive, and sensitive to the developmental needs of children. Play serves as a bridge to your child’s inner world. It provides adults with a tool for communicating empathy and intervening in a manner that is attuned to the child’s symbolic language and emotional needs.
Play therapy is based on the premise that everyone strives toward well-being and realization of personal potential.
Listen to children at play. The comfort within their make-believe worlds allow for children to try out their emotions.
After all, young children have not yet developed their language skills to a point where they can talk about their feelings easily.
- Children’s play can be more fully appreciated when recognized as their natural medium of communication.
- Children express themselves more fully and more directly through self-initiated spontaneous play than they do verbally because they are more comfortable with play.
- Children “play out” their experiences and feelings in a natural dynamic and self-healing process through natural engagement. A child’s “work” is his/her play.
- Play is the natural medium of exchange thus the parent or the therapist engages the child at the child’s level.
- Children do not have the verbal mechanisms readily available to them to carry out verbal communicative therapy.
In order for children to make sense of the world, they must first feel safe to explore it without criticism or demand. Play therapy recognizes that it takes time to establish trust. Trust will develop as the counselor accepts the child’s feelings and hisher means of expressing them as well as hisher timing for the process of self-disclosure.
A Playful Environment with Meaning
One of the ways a parent or a counselor makes a child feel accepted and respected is very simply by providing a well-equipped playroom. A room stocked with modeling clay, puppets, paints, or a sand box, etc., has an atmosphere where the child will feel most comfortable.
The counselor (teacher, parent, therapist) explains to the child that time spent in the playroom is his/hers to do with as he/she wishes. The counselor will be there to listen and answer questions. As the child works and plays, the counselor will reflect back to the child what he sees the child doing.
The Spirituality of Play, explores the relationship between play therapy and spiritual development.