By Annabella Hagen
When parents decide to have their children participate in play therapy, the whole family benefits as parents are taught skills that can be used with the other children as well. Though play therapy was first designed to work with children between 3-12 years old, the Association for Play Therapy reports that in recent years, play therapy interventions have also been applied to infants and toddlers (Schaefer, et. al., 2008).
Play therapy is used in hospitals, schools, mental health clinics and private practice settings in order to help children who are experiencing behavioral, emotional, mental, and physical challenges.
Play therapy is the means for children to gain self confidence, explore their imagination, develop their vocabulary, learn social skills, and self-control. Children who have experienced stress, emotional and mental pain due to family issues, divorce, domestic violence, abuse, grief and loss are able to work out their trauma.
Play therapy can be the means to help children to problem solve, find closure to their trauma, and feel empowered. When children suffer anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder, and other mental and behavioral challenges, they can benefit greatly when play therapy is used along with other needed interventions.
According to the Association for Play Therapy, play therapy helps children:
- Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
- Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
- Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.
- Learn to experience and express emotion.
- Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.
- Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.
- Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.
The Association for Play therapy also reported that “Meta-analytic reviews of over 100 play therapy outcome studies (Leblanc & Ritchie, 2001; Bratton, et. al., 2005) have found that the over-all treatment effect of play therapy ranges from moderate to high positive effects. Play therapy has proven equally effective across age, gender, and presenting problem. Additionally, positive treatment effects were found to be greatest when there was a parent actively involved in the child’s treatment” (www.a4pt.org).