For Parents: What is Play Therapy?

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Some parents reading this may have thought about bringing their younger child to see a therapist about the child’s emotional and behavioral struggles. However, most parents don’t have a clear idea of exactly what play therapy is, how it works and how they can be part of the process of helping their child feel and behave better. The Thrive Therapists offer the following Top 10 tidbits which help explain to parents how this form of therapy works, when you might want to consider it and how you can be involved in the most supportive way.

  1. All children have adjustment problems while growing up; some need extra help to cope.
  2. Children have difficulty expressing in words how they feel but like to play. Play therapy provides toys and materials so children can “play out” what they cannot say in words.
  3. Children recreate in play the life experiences that are part of their troubles. Children’s play evolves until they gain understanding/comfort over their conflicts/worries.
  4. Releasing feelings with a safe, caring, understanding adult helps children feel better.
  5. Children learn to express themselves in positive ways, to control their behavior, to make decisions and to act responsibly. They change their personal view of life events, enjoy more their interactions with others and feel increased self-esteem.
  6. Usually, more recent distressing events mean shorter treatment and vice versa.
  7. Parents can meet with the play therapist to express concerns, talk about their child’s behavior at home and receive feedback. Parents may be given guidance through Filial Therapy as to how to help the child at home and even infuse their own “special play-time.”
  8. Children need some degree of privacy regarding what occurs in their therapy.
  9. Parents can ready the child by describing therapy as “special play-time” to share feelings with a special person and feel better.
  10. There is a possibility that the problem may “get worse before it gets better”; this is not unusual nor does it mean the therapy is not going to be effective.
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