Play Therapy and the Child

Tool KitJust like adults, children attend therapy for a wide variety of reasons. They may be experiencing social, emotional, behavioural or developmental difficulties. They may have experienced difficult life events such as illness, bullying, bereavement or parental separation.

Children may have low self-esteem, poor concentration, poor problem solving skills, heightened anxieties, fear, anger or aggression.

Children may present with various issues like separation anxiety, anger management or have problems sleeping, eating or toileting. It can be hard for a child to adjust to times of change. Some children have experienced significant early trauma or neglect and develop attachment difficulties, disorders or PTSD. The list is endless.

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All of these issues result in the child having difficulties with relationships, recognising, regulating or expressing emotions, establishing routines, responding to authority and feeling secure. These problems can interrupt a child’s development and the child could benefit from specialised help that even the best parents cannot provide.

It can reassure parents to learn that Play Therapy provides the child with enjoyable experiences that alleviate the stress and helps them overcome difficulties while simultaneously providing satisfaction, pleasure and opportunities to experience themselves as competent, capable and fun to be with.

Research supports Play Therapy as an effective intervention. It uses the power of play to help children achieve optimum growth and development and prevent or reduce developmental, psychosocial, or emotional difficulties.

Children cannot benefit from talk therapy like adults can. Just as adults talk out problems, children play out their difficulties.

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Children are not able to describe complex feelings and thoughts in words but their play gives us a window into their inner world, their worries, pre-occupations and confusions and brings the child to a deeper level than their verbal skills would allow.

Through therapeutic play a child can develop self confidence, a positive self image, express feelings, make decisions and learn new ways to cope with difficult situations. Not only that but they do so while enjoying themselves and having fun.

“One of the most characteristic and perhaps one of the most important changes in therapy is the bringing into awareness of experiences of which heretofore the child has not been conscious”.   Carl Rogers.

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The playroom consists of a wide variety of toys including  sand boxes, water and messy play, arts n crafts, dolls and dolls houses, soldiers, cars, games, musical instruments, puppets, paints, clay, story books, dress-up, miniature figures of people and animals and lots more.

Play Therapy techniques allow a child complete freedom of choice within safe boundaries. The child is the boss of the play with the therapist being the boss of keeping them both safe. It is completely non judgmental and the child is neither praised nor blamed. By providing a free atmosphere within safe boundaries the therapist allows the child complete freedom to express him/herself through the medium of play.

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Listen back to RTE Radio 1's show Today with Sean O'Rourke which looks at anxieties in children. This programme discusses how Play Therapy can help alleviate anxieties and worries in children and Sandra's interview begins 7 minutes 30 seconds into the programme.



Below is a clip from the British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT) showing you Play Therapy sessions in action.Galway Play Therapy