What is Play Therapy? What Does It Do?

Children can express themselves best while playing. Play therapy is a method found by using this ability to help children express their needs and overcome their emotional problems. What is play therapy, which also has types such as filial therapy and experiential play therapy, and how is it applied? Let’s get into the details!

1. What is play therapy?

Children cannot express themselves by talking like adults about the fears, problems and traumas they experience. For this reason, speech therapies and counseling applied to adults cannot be applied to children. At this point, play therapy comes into play to enable children to express themselves naturally. You know that one of the things kids do best is play games.

So how is play therapy done ?

Play therapy is a special type of therapy based on children’s ability to express themselves and their needs with games and toys instead of words. With this method, it is aimed for children to express themselves through games, just as adults talk about their problems during therapy. It is also very effective in helping children with autism develop emotionally and express themselves.

2. What is filial therapy?

Filial, one of the types of play therapy, is a Latin word meaning “son”. Filial play therapy; We can say that it is a form of psycho-education, which is about the relationship between mother, father and child, and combines play and family therapy.

Since no one is born with the ability to be a mother and father, knowledge and skills in this field become a necessity over time. Filial therapy provides exactly this and strengthens the communication of families with the child. For these reasons, it is a therapy method used for children who are developing normally and have difficulties in their emotional and behavioral development.

Filial play therapy, which has become very common in recent years, is very effective in reducing the problems of children between the ages of 3-10 and strengthening the family relationship. If we look at the goals of filial therapy:

  • Going down to the source and eliminating the problems,
  • To strengthen the communication between the mother and father with the child and to enable them to understand the child’s psychological development,
  • To increase the ability of parents and children to cope with problems and solve problems.

3. Experiential play therapy

Experiential play therapy is a therapy method that children aged 2-11 can benefit from. The age of 2, which is considered the lower limit, is a developmental period in which children can start playing symbolic games. Symbolic games are general games based on the act of “pretend” in children. In such games, children reflect their thoughts or behaviors through other objects or people. Experiential play therapy can be applied when children begin to play symbolic games before they reach the stage of verbal expression.

A therapist who is an expert in the field provides a safe environment for the child and encourages him to play. The content and scenario of the game, which toy to play with are completely left to the child’s will. In this way, the child chooses the toys that best suit his emotional problem.

The therapist joins the child’s play, accompanies him without any restrictions and becomes the observer of the process. Thus, the child has the opportunity to develop the skills of coping with these problems with the help of the therapist by reliving the things, problems and experiences that are difficult for him. The child gets stronger and encouraged in the game day by day, and experiences relief against emotional problems, and the healing process continues in this way.

4. What does play therapy do?

In play therapy education, games are played that will enable children to reflect on their emotional experiences that they struggle with. Let’s look at the benefits of play therapy:

  • It develops children’s mental and social skills and enables them to express their feelings and thoughts.
  • Children learn to trust themselves, to cooperate, to respect, to take responsibility and to fulfill these responsibilities.
  • They learn to find solutions to their problems, identify their emotions, deal with negative emotions, and fight their fears.

5. How is play therapy done at home?

Parents who want to learn filial therapy and apply it at home enter a 6-week training within 2-hour sessions.

During the Filial group training, each parent records the 30 minutes of playtime they spend with their child on video for once. The therapist guides parents through someone’s video each week. In this way, parents can become competent in play therapy and apply it themselves at home. If you want to practice play therapy at home, you can benefit from group training in this way.

6. How many sessions does play therapy take?

The duration of continuing play therapy varies depending on the situations and traumas the child has experienced in the past and present. The most important factors are the developmental stage of the child and, if there is any trauma, how old it is. The sooner the therapy is started after the event, the faster the results are obtained and the shorter the therapy period.

In general, play therapy is done once a week for 45 minutes. Although the duration of the sessions depends on the development of the child, the shortest duration of play therapy is 12 sessions.

7. What’s on the play therapy toy list?

Play therapy toys and materials need to be easy to use, durable and portable. When children enter the play therapy room, they can play with any of the toys below.

Play therapy toys list
Toy home appliances and furniture
Kitchen stuff
Toy human and animal figures
Toy car, toy train and toy airplane
Costume, accessories and mirror
Play tent and sandbox
repair tools
Musical instruments
puppets and plush toys
Artistic activity supplies such as finger paint, play dough, paper and crayons

The therapist, who is not directive in choosing toys, respects the child’s choice and plays together to establish a close bond and reassure him. Once this is achieved, therapy begins.

8. What problems can play therapy solve?

Play therapy provides benefits for many emotional problems of psychological origin in children. Let’s take a look at the problems that play therapy is useful for:

  • Adaptation difficulties after divorce,
  • sibling jealousy ,
  • Traumas and abuse (physical, emotional, sexual),
  • sleep disorder ,
  • Anxieties and fears (phobias and tics),
  • Speech disorder and selective mute (silence),
  • Changes in family life (death, moving, etc.),
  • Adoption and adoption situations,
  • Starting school and adjustment problems (behavioral problems),
  • Study and reading problems,
  • Chronic health problems.

9. Can families participate in play therapy?

The contribution of parents is one of the most important elements in play therapy. The negotiations between the play therapist and the family continue, and if the therapist deems appropriate, he or she can sometimes invite parents and even relatives such as grandparents, grandparents, aunts and aunts, who have an active role in the child’s life, to the process. If the therapist deems it necessary, parents can also be included in the game.

In addition, the play therapist gives advice to parents that they can apply to their children outside of therapy times.

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