*the following information was selectively chosen from two brochures from the Association for Play Therapy, Fresno, CA, where I belong as a Registered Play Therapist and Supervisor.
Why Play Therapy?
Play is fun, creative and critical to healthy development. During play children learn about their physical surroundings, their own capabilities and limitations, social rules and the difference between fantasy and reality. In addition, play is one way children learn to communicate. In play they can show others things that are too complicated to say.
What is Play Therapy?
All Play Therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children systematically address and resolve their own problems. Play allows them a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows them to express their true thoughts and feelings in ways best suited to their developmental level.
How does Play Therapy work?
It allows trained play therapists to assess and understand children’s play and to use it in assisting the child in coping with difficult emotions and in finding solutions to their problems. PT allows children to change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve their problems.
Which Symptoms could be addressed in Play Therapy?
Research supports the effectiveness of PT with children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: stress, aggression, anxiety/fearfulness, depression, ADHD, impulsivity, low self-esteem, reading difficulties, and social withdrawal.
Who practices Play Therapy?
It requires specialized training and experience. A play therapist is, first, a trained mental health professional with at least a Master Degree and a license in a relating field. With advanced, specialized training, experience and supervision they become Registered Play Therapists (RPT) or registered Play Therapist-Supervisors (RPT-S)
What Toys and Games are fitting clinical use and preschool to teen age?
Doll house, house furniture, family dolls, domestic animals. Hand puppets. Lego and building sets (race tracks, marble work). Board games and selected psycho educational games to deal with different difficulties. Sandbox and miniature figures and collections: village, animals, army, transportation, rescue, authority and wrong role figures, fantasy characters. Drawing and story making. Customs and role-play, clean-up and sand tools.
Play Therapy and the Legal Community
As more and more children and families come in contact with both family court and the criminal justice system, this information provides representatives of the legal system with an understanding of:
- the nature of play-based assessments and they may add to legal proceedings
- the nature of PT and how it might benefit children and families caught up in the legal system
- the confidentiality issues faced by clinicians when they enter the legal system on behalf of their child clients.
The focus of all play-based assessments is the gathering of information from or about children as well as attempting to uncover objective/factual truths. In play-based assessments clinicians make effort to ensure they do not “contaminate” the information obtained from the child by introducing potentially leading or interpretive material into the process.
What are the benefits?
Play-based assessments allow trained clinicians to gather a wide variety of information from and about children in a relatively unobtrusive and non-threatening way. The legal system may request a play-based assessment to assist in such things as making custody and placement decisions, evaluating the impact of trauma on children and determining appropriate interventions.
What are the limitations?
There are two primary limitations to play-based assessments. One, these methods cannot always elicit specific, detailed information from the child. They are less likely to garner the detailed factual information sometimes sought by the legal system. Play therapists are sometimes less concerned with the factual accuracy of what the child says than they are with the thoughts or feelings underlying the child’s actions. For this reason, information elicited in PT is not generally used in legal decision-making.