What is play therapy?
Clinically, play therapy is a form of counseling or psychotherapy in which PLAY is used as a means of helping children express or communicate their feelings. Play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.
In short, it is the use of toys and games to help children work out difficulties they are experiencing.
So, what can play therapy do for you and your family?
According to the Association for Play Therapy (APT), “play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego." When children play, they immerse themselves in an act of creative exploration boosting their cognitive abilities and in doing so, creating an opportune time for their brains to pick up and learn new things. Leveraging play, professionals are able to utilize techniques to draw out conversations and thoughts otherwise not easily communicated by a child. With a child's mind relieved of feelings of stress, they are able to understand and find solutions to problems more objectively and clearly.
The powerful techniques used in play therapy are not only for children experiencing trauma or difficulties. If play is when children learn best, then play is what families can leverage to teach important lessons. While there are board games that teach money management, time management, and other concrete skills for children, Empower Empathy™ teaches social and communication skills that develops emotional intelligence.
Our children's board game, Empower Empathy™, leverages the power of situational analysis by stepping into the shoes of a character and empathizing with a narrative outside of their own lives, similar to a child reading a book. City Watch™ scenario cards help expose children to many common situations that they may encounter in their lives. They are encouraged to assess what is happening, understand the feelings at play, and decide on appropriate actions in an objective and safe space, namely in the context of playing a game.
For instance, a child throws a temper tantrum when they do not get the toy they want at a store. In this extremely common scenario, a child permits their want to drive their behavior, however inappropriate it may seem to the parent. However when a child sees another child throwing a temper tantrum, they may be able to perceive from a third-person perspective, analyzing how difficult it may make the parents feel, and perhaps even rationalize what may or may not be an appropriate response to not getting what they want. Likewise, a parent may come to realize that perhaps the child has not learned of a socially-acceptable way to react to big feelings like anger, frustration, impatience, and helplessness, and more guidance is needed to redirect their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Using Play to address issues with a child's behavior such as lying, bullying, and temper tantrums may be more powerful than reprimanding. Play therapy is a powerful tool that families can tap into to supplement skills, process difficult situations, and even improve communication flow within the family.
Let us know your thoughts on play therapy below! What type of play or games do your family use? Do you find them effective?