This post is brought to you by Shannon Olson, LCSW:
What is the point of play therapy? The short answer? The point is to communicate with a child in a language they know. As human beings we are not born speaking in full sentences, rather our vocabulary is built over time. However, how many three year olds understand what shame is, can use the word in a sentence and identify what behaviors come from that feeling? In order to understand their world through their eyes counselors create a space in which children can act out their stories and their emotions. During that time a counselor is then helping them identify feelings and create an emotional vocabulary. Play therapy is also used to help a child who has been traumatize “tell” us what happened through re-enactment, the goal of this is two-fold. First, there’s the emotional release of having shared the story and then there is the ability to alter the “scene” so that the child can find resolution. Play therapy with teens can be about those things and it can also be about taking the stress out of a face-to-face interaction with a stranger so we can build rapport and trust. Play therapy is intentional in its purpose. It may allow a child to tell us their story, learn an emotion vocabulary so we can teach them how to communicate with us, or its designed to decrease tension and strengthen the therapeutic alliance. There are many uses! Play therapy is also…FUN! Yes, children have serious issues to learn to cope with, so isn’t it nice when learning those skills is fun too? We want the skills to be learned and stick with them! Let’s play. Let’s learn. Let’s grow!
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