“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”― Donald Woods Winnicott, Playing and Reality (1896-1971)
Children’s natural language is play. Through play they are capable of processing their own emotions, expressing their inner world and communicating with their environment. Play Therapy is a highly effective and well-researched psychological treatment approach mainly used with children.
Play Therapy expands self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization, and self-efficacy. It helps children overcome emotional and behavioural challenges and deals with developmental issues, family issues, traumas and distress. Children may highly benefit from Play Therapy in preparing them for challenging events (e.g., life transitions, changes in family dynamics, surgeries, illnesses), or in coping with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, addictions, trauma, loss and grief, learning disabilities, ADHD, family conflict, and interpersonal relationships. Play Therapy also contributes to improving communicating of feelings, experiences and thoughts, interpersonal relationships, and parent-child attachment.
Play Therapy uses different mediums such as role-playing, storytelling, puppets, painting and drawing, music, dance, clay-play, sand-tray work, craft making, collages, beading, and board games. Children naturally and spontaneously use these mediums to explore, express and process their experiences, emotions, and thoughts in a safe, supportive, non-pressuring, and non-judgmental environment. This allows the therapist to identify themes in the child’s inner world and intervene accordingly in order to work through their distress and issues and help them to deal with their challenges. While it may look like ordinary playtime, Play Therapy is much more than that. The therapist observes and strives to enter and to gain insight into the child’s inner world in order to create a change, and interpretation of the child’s symbolic play is provided to the parents as part of the therapeutic process. The positive relationship that develops between therapist and child during play therapy sessions can provide a corrective emotional experience necessary for healing (Moustakas, 1997).