It is challenging to comprehend children, especially who have developmental limitations. Children with special needs have a world of their own. Research shows play therapy to be an effective approach to break through those layers.
Let’s understand the therapy in a gist.
Play therapy or therapeutic play is a psychological therapeutic process that involves play activities in a comforting and safe environment. It is often used to discover various themes related to the child’s life. When at play, the child enters a confidential zone where he/she has the freedom to make own decisions, explore the world of imagination and dwell into the world of what they think is fun. Most children enact the events of their real lives during their play, which gives great insight into their thoughts, behaviours and emotions.
The mere reason for using play therapy is to break the ice between the professional and the child. To build a bond and observe the child from within his safe world. Although the therapeutic process sounds unplanned and vague, the structure and rigidity is usually maintained by the professional without the knowledge of the child. It is important for the child to feel safe, comfortable and carefree in the therapy. The lesser the inhibitions are from the professional’s end, the more relaxed the child feels. As appropriately said by Virginia Axline,
Enter into children’s play and you will find where their minds, hearts and souls meet.
Play therapists believe that children often express themselves better through/while at play than via a dialogue. In situations where the child is too shy, cautious, or unwilling to participate, a directive approach is implemented. On the other hand, with a more outgoing child, a nondirective method can also work well.
When to use play therapy?
There is no strict boundary as to when play should be used. Play therapy finds usefulness in many different domains. From building rapport, behaviour modification, developing certain social skills to understanding emotions of those who undergo trauma, anxiety, hospitalization. Some professionals also include play to teach academic concepts or instill positive behaviours.
Deciphering the psyche of the child is like entering the core of the Earth. There are several layers before you reach the crux, which is extremely sensitive. Thus, parents and caretakers should bear in mind it is a time-consuming process that requires collaboration and patience to witness any magnitude of change. There is enough support from research that reflect effectiveness of play therapy for disruptive behaviours, trauma issues and academic improvement in children.