Play therapy is a type of mental health, educational, or developmental intervention that is designed to help children grow up as happy and well-adjusted as possible. It involves the use of play to communicate with children and to help children learn to solve problems and change their negative behaviors. The Association for Play Therapy defines play therapy as “the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.” Play is the primary way that children do the following: learn about the world; understand how different things work; express their thoughts and feelings; develop their physical skills; develop their mental skills; and develop effective social skills and bonds. As children grow, their use of language becomes more sophisticated, but throughout childhood, they usually express much more of themselves in their play. By watching children play we often learn more about their thoughts, feelings, motivations, and struggles than by talking with them.
Child Centered Play Therapy can be a positive and effective way to help children and works for children as counseling or psychotherapy does for adults. Child Centered Play Therapy helps children work through emotional, psychosocial and behavioral difficulties and helps address family problems. In Child Centered Play Therapy, a relationship develops between the child and the therapist. The therapist enters the child’s world, following the child’s lead, developing a safe place and a relationship of trust. Play Therapy sessions are usually held in a playroom that has a range of carefully selected toys and materials. In special circumstances, play therapy sessions can also be offered in other settings such as home and in hospitals. In the playroom, the child can express feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviors through play. Toys are used like words and become the child’s natural language. In Child Centered Play Therapy the child selects the toys and activities to play with. The Play Therapist may join in the play on the child’s direction or invitation. Limits are set as and when needed. This is done in a way that helps children make choices and develop self responsibility. Virginia Axline (1947, 1969, and 1971) applied the basic concepts of client-centered therapy (Rogers, 1959) to work with children when she developed nondirective, child centered play therapy.
Play has long been recognized as occupying a significant place in the lives of children. As early as the eighteenth century, there has been an importance of observing play to learn about children and to understand them. There are several types of approaches that have been developed to focus around play therapy. Some of the major approaches are listed below: • Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic Play Therapy: Hug-Hellmuth (1921) was the first psychoanalytic therapist to directly use play with children in therapy. She visited children’s homes and watched and participated in their natural play without directing it in any way. She believed that therapist can use the material present in the child’s play to understand intrapsychic conflict and personality structures explored in the process of the child’s analysis. Anna Freud (1928, 1946) also worked directly with children. She used the observation of children’s play as a tool for building a relationship with these clients. M. Klien (1932) was a psychodynamic therapist that had a different understanding of the function that play can serve in therapy. She believed that play is children’s natural way of expression that takes place in adult therapy. Klien suggested that spontaneous play is the equivalent of free association in adults, full of important information about subconscious process. • Release Play Therapy: David...
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