Why play therapy?

Photo by Rawpixel/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Rawpixel/iStock / Getty Images

In play therapy, children have the opportunity to make sense of their world (thoughts, feelings, and experiences) in their natural language, play. Most children are not developmentally able to verbalize their concerns. The toys in the play therapy room serve as a child's "words," and play is his or her natural expression or "conversation." 

Although children are welcome to talk about experiences they have have, play therapists will avoid pushing children to talk about any specifics about their lives or difficult circumstances they have faced. Instead, play therapists create an environment where children can work through their concerns and experiences freely and in their own meaningful way through play!

How do I talk to my child about play therapy?

What you tell your child about coming to play therapy will depend on his/her age and development. Before coming to your first appointment, tell your child that he/she will be going to a special playroom where he/she will get to have weekly play time with therapist named Laura. Children may ask why they are going, in which case, it is appropriate to tell him/her "sometimes when things feel hard (with friends, parents, siblings, school, changes, etc.) it helps to have a little extra support or special time just for playing." You can tell your child that he/she is free to talk about what is going on but is in no way required to verbalize any of his/her concerns. It is important to establish a pressure free beginning to play therapy. Assure your child that he/she is not going because he/she did something wrong or needs to be fixed in any way. 

Further, you should avoid pushing your child to talk about what happened in play therapy. Create an open environment where your child is free to talk about his/her experience in the play room but is in no way required to share. It is imperative that he/she believes that play sessions are his/her personal special time. 

For additional ideas about how to explain play therapy to your child or to understand it better yourself, watch the following short videos: