Monday, May 15, 2023

No, Play Therapy IS NOT Just Playing 🧩♟️🃏

Why can’t kids just talk about their feelings? Well, think about it… 🤔 In theory, adults should be able to go into a therapy session and talk about what’s going on with them, but we all know it’s not always that easy! Feelings are confusing. Clearly articulating them is challenging. Imagine how hard this can be for kids. 

It’s extremely difficult for kids to talk about how they are feeling. Oftentimes, they sincerely don’t know how they are feeling and aren’t able to put these feelings into words. All they know is that they feel bad, they get angry or overwhelmed easily, and even get in trouble for their behaviors and reactions. 

When it comes to children, PLAY is how they communicate. Toys are their words and play is their language.

Play is not just for little kids. Preteens and adolescents can benefit from it too.

Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is specifically designed to help kids who may be experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties. It allows kids to express their feelings, thoughts, and experiences through play and other creative activities in a safe and non-threatening environment.

Psychodynamic play therapy is a type of play therapy that is based on the principles of psychodynamic theory. This approach emphasizes the importance of exploring and understanding the unconscious thoughts, emotions, and experiences that may be contributing to a child’s difficulties and bringing those thoughts (which are difficult to express through verbal communication) to conscious awareness.

One key aspect of psychodynamic play therapy is the focus on the therapeutic relationship between the child and therapist. The therapist aims to establish a trusting and empathetic relationship with the child in order to create a safe space for the child to explore their thoughts and feelings.

In play therapy, a trained therapist provides a wide range of toys, games, arts and crafts, and other materials that the child can use to play and explore. The therapist may also use techniques such as storytelling, drawing, sand play and role-playing to help the child express themselves. Kids create scenes and use toys, figures, etc. to represent situations and feelings that they are experiencing but cannot put into words.

During psychodynamic play therapy sessions, the child is encouraged to lead the play and follow their own interests. The therapist observes the child’s play and behavior and then uses the themes that emerge in the play as a starting point in the therapeutic work. This, coupled with information about the child’s family history, family dynamics, experiences, relationships, temperament, coping style, etc., is helpful in understanding what the child may be experiencing internally, how this is impacting their behavior, and how to best help them.

There are a variety of techniques used in psychodynamic play therapy, such as free association, interpretation, and reflection to help the child understand and process their emotions and experiences. For example, the child is encouraged to express themselves freely and without judgment by choosing what they want to do and how they want to do it. They make the rules and are the ones in control. The therapist explores the themes and underlying meanings that emerge during play by commenting on the child’s play, building on the play, asking questions and “wondering” about things with the child. This process invites the child to think deeply and to reflect on their emotions, all while linking their feelings to behaviors. This type of support and guidance helps the child develop an awareness of their internal world, which aids in the development of coping skills, improves self-esteem, and helps the child learn how to express themselves in healthier ways.

Overall, psychodynamic play therapy is a useful approach for kids who are struggling with emotional and behavioral difficulties. By exploring their experiences through play and other creative activities, kids can develop a better understanding of themselves and their emotions, which can help them cope with their difficulties in a healthier way.