Play can be defined as a voluntary activity involving pretend or fantasy, but it can be so much more than that. Play can be useful therapeutically, helping adults and children to improve their mental and physical health.
What is play therapy?
Play therapy is a form of therapy that, obviously, involves play. It is suitable for children and adults and encourages people to express themselves through play, arts, crafts, toys and games.
Not everyone is able to express themselves well verbally, so play therapy enables them to share their feelings and thoughts in a different way.
Types of play therapy
For example –
- Asking a person to draw pictures or paint images of how they feel
- Use puppets and ask them to act out how they feel
- Role play
Lego Therapy is a well-known form of play therapy, where children or adults use Lego blocks to work together. It encourages team work, creativity and communication, which are useful skills for the child or adult to develop.
Play therapy can involve –
- Functional Play – This involves manipulating objects or practising a skill.
- Constructive play – involves making things. Lego Therapy is an example of constructive play.
- Dramatic play involves acting out roles, such as teacher, friend. It can also involve pretend play, fantasy play or acting out social scripts, such as how to behave in a queue, for example.
- Games with rules – Games such as football, tennis, chess and draughts have rules. Playing games with rules can help children and adults to gain an understanding of boundaries and rules when interacting with others.
Play therapy with kids
Play is an important activity for children to engage in, and gain tremendous enjoyment from. Most children engage in play spontaneously and different types of play seem to be more prevalent in children of different ages. Since children are not as advanced as adults in terms of language, play is sometimes regarded as the language of children. Play therapy taps into the child’s affinity with play as a way to communicate with them.
Play therapy involves allowing children to express their thoughts and feelings through play activities in the presence of a caring and empathic adult. Children are allowed to use toys or activities to play out their inner experiences in a safe space.
Play therapy with adults
Exploration of self through play can be used to treat adults, including the elderly and also adolescents in the issues facing them. By the time a person reaches adulthood their ability to explore themselves and the word around them through play seems lost – but we do play in various ways even as adults: singing, dancing, acting, dressing up, are all forms of play and help adults and adolescents to unlock creativity, to rehearse for perceivably uncomfortable or important situations (e.g. talking to yourself or going through what you will say in an important interview, in a meeting or even at a doctor’s appointment). Play can be ‘relearned’; as adults we never really lost the ability to play - we either do not recognise our day to day actions and thoughts as ‘play’ or we have suppressed the ability to play.
Play therapy, in a safe and comfortable environment, is used for range of issues in adults and adolescents and includes several of types of ‘play’ to explore both the mind and the body for example:
- role play
- vocal play
- sand play
It is used to treat a range of issues, such as –
- Grief and loss
- Social skills
- Mood swings
- Low self esteem
Training as a play therapist
Play therapy is useful for children and adults who are struggling to express themselves, to share how they are feeling.
We are currently seeing an increase in mental health difficulties in adults and children, and play therapy offers an alternative option to traditional counselling to children and adults who might struggle to express themselves well verbally.
You might be interested in –
- Training as a play therapist
- Using play therapy in your existing job role with adults or children
Depending on where you live, there are different training requirements to work as a play therapist, but if you are interested in undertaking an introductory course to play therapy as a starting point, we offer a great course.
Our Play Therapy course requires around 100 hours of study. You can start at any time to suit you. The course is self-paced.
You can view more information on the online Play Therapy course HERE .