Play therapy and its benefits explained

Your child’s teacher has recommended some play therapy for your child. But what is it, and how can it help?

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Educational psychologist and owner of Child’s Play Therapy Centre, Kerryn Giles explains that play therapy is all about helping children communicate and to work through their emotional experiences when they’re at an age where they haven’t yet developed the cognitive or language skills needed to communicate their feelings.

“Play is a natural and spontaneous activity, and by using play, toys and a play room, play therapy creates a safe space where they can communicate their needs, feelings and worries,” Kerryn explains.

ALSO SEE: 5 benefits of imaginative play 

What is play therapy all about?

Your child’s teacher may have suggested play therapy if she’s worried about her wellbeing or social, emotional or behavioural wellbeing. The therapy isn’t just about giving your child the tools to work through her challenges; it’s also about gaining insight into what’s causing them.

What next?

Before you have book a consultation with a play therapist, it’s important to find out from the teacher why, exactly, she’s concerned, and ask for examples. “You can also ask what they’re hoping play therapy will achieve. This will give you a good idea of how your child’s difficulties are manifesting,” Kerryn says. Typically, the play therapist will ask you a few questions to help her gain an understanding of your child’s needs, and then recommend a weekly session with your child. After six weeks of play therapy, she will generally provide feedback along with further recommendations. These may range from ‘homework’ you can do at home or school, to suggesting additional sessions.

Anything I should look out for?

According to Kerryn, if a social, emotional or behavioural concern or issue negatively affects your child’s functioning, you should see this as a red flag. “In other words, if the concern or issue is standing in the way of him learning or making friends or affecting family functions,” says Kerryn. “Imagine, for example, avoiding going shopping because you fear a tantrum or outburst.”

Other signs include:

  • Changes to eating and sleeping habits
  • An increase in feelings of worry, sadness, distress, or anger, and
  • Struggling to cope with emotions, which means more tantrums and meltdowns.

“Remember, early intervention is preferable. Don’t hesitate to ask a qualified professional if you become concerned about your child’s wellbeing,” Kerryn advises.

More about the expert:
Kerryn Giles is an educational psychologist and owner of Child’s Play Therapy Centre. Read more about Kerryn Giles here.

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