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12-24 Play therapy: How it benefits adolescent trauma

Posted in Trauma and Abuse

Play therapy: How it benefits adolescent trauma

When it comes to expressive arts therapies, a parent is given a wide range of options if they are looking for help for their child. One particular therapy that a parent may want to consider is play therapy. While this may sounds odd, it is a highly effective form of therapy for children and young adolescents which the parental reader should learn more about.

What it is and how it works

Play therapy has been around for a long time, with its first recorded use being in 1919. Play therapy can be approached as directive or non-directive, though many practitioners will use a mix of both. Non-directive play therapy or “unstructured play therapy” uses few boundary conditions and is guided by the idea that children have the internal drive to achieve wellness and, if allowed to speak and play freely in optimal therapeutic conditions, will find a way to resolve their own issues and work towards their own solutions. Conversely, directive play therapy uses directives to guide the child through play, using techniques which allow the therapist to engage in play with the child or suggest new topics for conversation, following the belief that by doing so it will generate a faster change.

The goal of play therapy is to help a child understand confused feelings and upsetting events such as trauma. Play therapy allows the young client to communicate at their own level and at their own pace without making them feel threatened, pressured or interrogated. During the therapy, the therapist creates a confidential and caring environment and allows the child to play with their choices from a large selection of play materials with as few limits as possible but as many limits as necessary. These materials may include arts and crafts supplies, dress up props, sand and water, clay, small figures and animals, musical instruments, puppets, books and more. Through the use of these materials, your child’s play therapist helps enable your child to express themselves without having to use verbal explanations.

Each play therapist makes sure to listen to your concerns for your child and family and also to review the history of child and family to learn about the stresses both parties have gone through so they can help your child work through it. They will also ask for information from the school and other adults in the child’s life and make an assessment of the child’s strengths and difficulties. It is through the careful work on a therapist and the use of these different materials and methods that play therapy is able to help so many children.

How can it help?

Through the creation of a safe environment and a trusting relationship with their therapist, a child in play therapy is able to heal in several ways. A child is given special time in which they are given time to play with parents and understand that they are supported. They are also given coping strategies to help them with issues that are present in their life that they cannot change, helping to give them a more positive view of their future life. Additionally, playing and creativity work on the unconscious impulses on a path towards healing. Play therapy can also resolve psychosocial challenges and help children towards better social integration, growth and development.

Parental involvement

Parents are able to help during the process of their child’s therapy by being involved in the therapy and also by simply showing their support. It is important that parents consistently encourage their child to attend play therapy and should make sure to be supportive and allow the child to express themselves during therapy. Additionally, parents should stay in contact with the play therapist and talk to them about any concerns they have about their child or questions they may have.

To learn more about other expressive arts therapies and how they can help your adolescent or teen, visit or call 866-615-7266.

Written by Brianna Gibbons, Sovereign Health Group writer

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