Play therapy is a psychotherapeutic technique used to help children ages 3 through 12 explore and express their thoughts and emotions through play. Typically, the clinician does not set many rules or limits on play, which encourages free expression of thoughts and emotions, allowing the clinician to observe the child’s choices and decisions. The clinician can then help the child express him or herself in a healthier way and solve problems in a positive manner. Music, storytelling, arts and crafts, dancing, and other tools can be used in play therapy.
A clinician may use non-directive play therapy, which relies on children resolving their own problems in the right environment and with limited instructions, directive play therapy, in which the clinician provides the child with more direction, or both approaches to play therapy.
What are the benefits of play therapy?
Play therapy is often used to help children who have social or emotional deficits learn to communicate better, solve problems in a healthy manner, relate to others, and modify their behavior.
Is my child a good fit for play therapy?
Children may be good candidates for play therapy when they are undergoing stressful events such as serious illness, domestic violence, abuse and trauma, a family crisis, or life transitions or if they have academic and social problems, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, mood or anxiety disorders, anger, attention deficit disorders, or are on the Autism spectrum.
Nick Cornett, Ph.D., LPC, LMFT answers common questions about play therapy in this video.
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