By Marilee Woolstenhulme
For children who come for play therapy, very often they have found themselves vulnerable to forces outside their control that made them feel small or helpless. When a child begins play therapy, they begin a journey in which an adult is dedicating time, usually weekly, to the child’s emotional well-being.
The play therapist communicates his or her intention to be with and listen to the child, and follows through as they interact closely in the play. As the child begins this new way of interacting, the therapist provides the child choices and returns to them decision-making capacity. The child finds that limits in the playroom are designed to keep them safe. It feels good to be valued, to have control, and to have someone by your side. The child feels they are valued and that their contributions are important.
In fact, play heals all ages. For anyone in play therapy, self-worth grows as time and the capacity for fun are dedicated to the client’s ability to achieve self-actualization.
Play therapy teaches emotional intelligence.
In child-centered play therapy, the content of the child’s play is tracked and emotional expression is reflected back to the child. The child begins to hear and see in the therapist the way in which they are perceived by another.
Mindsight, or the ability to see into the mind of another and achieve empathy for their experience, is enhanced when the child’s expression is valued and mirrored. The therapist has the job to be actively engaged in experiencing with the child, so that the child can learn through the relationship the importance of valuing others. Following play therapy, individuals of all ages better realize the part that they play in their relationships and what it means to be important to someone, an important birthplace for empathy.