What is play therapy?
Play is the language of children and the toys are their words. Children do not have the words to describe their thoughts, feelings and emotions.
What Resources are used?
The standard play therapy kit includes:
- musical instruments
- puppets, dressing-up
- art and craft materials
- drawing, painting
- clay and sculpting/modelling materials, textiles
- role play
- drama, movement and dance
- mask-making, sandplay, miniature figures
- therapeutic stories, story-telling and creative visualisations
Why does Play Therapy Work?
Play therapy works because it allows children the opportunity to express themselves freely in a safe environment.
It enables the child to:
- become empowered
- increase resilience
- facilitate emotional literacy
- discover healthier ways of communicating
- develop fulfilling relationships.
During Play therapy sessions, children develop a trusting, therapeutic relationship with their therapist. This relationship enables them to express themselves, explore and make sense of their difficult and painful experiences.
Where and how is play therapy carried out?
Play therapy is carried out in a safe room, the play therapy resources are provided. Sessions are 40 mins, at the same time and day each week. Some children will respond to a short term intervention which is 12 sessions of individual play therapy. However, when problems have persisted for a long time or are complicated a longer term intervention may be required.
Sessions are non-judgemental, child centred and predominantly child led.
What is the evidence that play therapy works?
PTUK's clinical evidence base, containing over 12,000 cases, shows that between 77% and 84% of children show a positive change through the use of play and creative arts therapies when delivered to PTUK standards. (PTUK website)
The principles of non directive play
Much of current play therapy practice is based upon Virginia Axline’s work.
- Develops a warm and friendly relationship with the child.
- Accepts the child as she or he is.
- Establishes a feeling of permission in the relationship so that the child feels free to express his or her feelings completely.
- Is alert to recognise the feelings the child is expressing and reflects these feelings back in such a manner that the child gains insight into his/her behaviour.
- Maintains a deep respect for the child’s ability to solve his/her problems and gives the child the opportunity to do so. The responsibility to make choices and to institute change is the child’s.
- Does not attempt to direct the child’s actions or conversations in any manner. The child leads the way, the therapist follows.
- Does not hurry the therapy along. It is a gradual process and must be recognised as such by the therapist.
- Only establishes those limitations necessary to anchor the therapy to the world of reality and to make the child aware of his/her responsibility in the relationship.