Play therapy is a technique that uses a wide variety of treatment methods, all of which include the use of play. Play can indicate how children are coping with their problems or concerns and it can show how much children understand about what is happening around them or within themselves. The natural play of children has long been acknowledged as a form of communication.
During play therapy, children are given freedom to explore their feelings through their natural method of learning. By playing with specially selected materials such as drawings or buildings, children can play out their feelings, thoughts and concerns. Children can also learn about their own abilities, limitations, social rules and learn the difference between fantasy and reality.
Playing in a therapeutic environment is different from playing with siblings, friends, parents or other family members. Children play at their own pace with their own agenda and the session becomes a time for the child to experiment with change, learn about choice, self-responsibility and self-direction, improve social skills and resolve emotional difficulties and inner conflicts.
Parents’ feedback is an integral part of the play therapy process as parents can inform the therapist about changes at home. Play therapy has been found to be effective with children who are experiencing social, emotional, behavioral and learning problems such as anxiety, aggression, depression, ADHD, impulsivity, low self-esteem, social withdrawal and post-traumatic stress.