Play Therapy offers kids an opportunity to explore intense feelings in order to understand their internal world and develop the ability to express themselves verbally instead of through their behavior. Utilizing a psychodynamic and attachment based approach, I attempt to understand how a child relates to the world and to others to determine the etiology of their symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) interventions are used to address specific symptoms and develop effective coping skills.
What is Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is a treatment intervention that utilizes a child's natural environment, play. Children play for many reasons, but most overreaching is their need to understand and master their world. That is why you may notice your little one return from a trip to the dentist or the car wash and begin acting out the events of the day. Your child is trying to make sense out of the event. In the same way, children come to therapy and use the toys to express themselves. The therapist is given a glimpse of the child's internal world and an opportunity to intervene to help them resolve emotional discord.
Play vs. Talk
Children are constantly learning to understand their feelings, find words to express them and communicate them to others. This is no small feat! Even when they have the words for happy, sad and mad, those words often feel inadequate to explain how they are feelings. Ask a child why they like something or why they did something, and you will probably receive a shrug. It takes years of development to be able to explain that cookies are yummy because they are soft, sweet, chewy, crunchy and melt in your mouth, which makes you smile. They just know that they taste good. To be able to explain that you are jealous of the attention your brother gets or you miss daddy when he travels for work is difficult, but doubly complicated because of the guilt, sadness, fear and anger that goes along with it. Play is meant to be the vehicle, and toys the words to communicate and resolve intense feelings of anxiety and depression.
Consultations with parents are paramount to successful treatment with kids. Not only do you know your child better than anyone, but you have the best chance to help your child implement what is learned in therapy and apply it at home, where it counts.