Toys such as puppets, family figures, a doll's house, modeling clay, crayons, paint, scissors, glue and animal figures may constitute just some of the equipment used by a play therapist in their sessions with children.
Children do not talk easily about their deeper worries. Sometimes a child is only vaguely aware of his/her worries, if at all. Parents may become aware that their child is finding life difficult through changes in the child's behaviour. It is for these reasons that techniques such as playing and drawing are needed to help both child and therapist become aware of and better understand the child's worries and associated concerns. In situations where the child is consciously aware of his/her worry, he/she may not have the adequate verbal skills to talk openly. In such a situation, communication can more easily occur through play and drawing. It is for this reason that play has come to be recognized as the language most accessible to a child.
Play therapy helps the child create a bridge between his/her internal experience (thoughts and feelings) and the reality of the outside world. This helps him/her to make sense of their world and to integrate experiences. When children have very strong and conflicting feelings, play therapy helps them to explore and come to terms with these feelings. An example of this is when parents separate and the child is faced with an array of contrasting feelings such as love and anger at the same time. The child is able to begin to work through and make sense of their worry and feelings through the process of play.
The therapist observes the child's play behaviour and the associated feelings can be understood and discussed in an age-appropriate way. Slowly, children start to gain some sense of control (mastery) over their experience, which in turn allows them to further work through their worry and associated feelings. 'Working through' does, however, require an appropriate time frame and the ongoing support of significant others such as parents and therapist.
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