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Using Play in Therapy

What is the History of Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy that has a rich history dating back to the early 20th century when psychoanalyst Melanie Klein first explored the use of play as a means for children to express and process their emotions. Over time, visionaries like Virginia Axline and D.W. Winnicott further developed and popularized play therapy as a therapeutic modality for children. Play therapy is rooted in the understanding that children may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, and through play, they can communicate, explore, and make sense of their experiences in a way that feels natural and non-threatening.

What is Play Therapy?

Using play in therapy with children is an effective tool. It is how we build rapport with children in the therapeutic context. Play is an enjoyable, fun activity that elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom and, most importantly, it is how children naturally express themselves. 

Although we are not certified play therapists, we often use play in our therapy sessions with kids and teens. We often play a game of "Mad Dragon" to help a child discuss anger, learn coping skills, etc. We may incorporate a Jenga game that asks thought provoking questions about self-esteem or life skills. Through these activities, children can express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns, allowing the therapist to gain insights into their inner world. The types of activities selected are adapted to the developmental stage and unique needs of each child, fostering a trusting therapeutic relationship.

What Are the Benefits of Using Play in Therapy?

Play in therapy offers numerous benefits for children:

  • Emotional Expression

  • Skill Development

  • Enhanced Communication

  • Building Trust and Rapport

  • Healing from Trauma

Why Use Play in Therapy?

Play in therapy remains a valuable and widely utilized approach in child psychology, recognized for its effectiveness in addressing a variety of emotional and behavioral challenges. It acknowledges the importance of play in a child's development and leverages this natural mode of expression to promote healing, growth, and resilience.