Therapeutic Benefits of Play Therapy

Therapy and the therapeutic benefits Play and the therapeutic benefits Play is one of the tools that children use to learn about the world and how to interact with their surroundings. It shapes their perception and world view. It is an important part of a child’s development and learning. Through play children learn the concept of safety and its limitations. Play should be a trial and error process where the child learns from their own mistakes. Finally play is important for the development of a child’s social and behavioral skills.

Play Therapy (PT). refers to structured and theoretically based approaches to child therapy. It helps a therapist develop a trusting relationship with a child in the safety of the child’s environment. Playing is used as a means of learning of the difficulties that the child faces and used as a therapeutic method to help them cope with their situation. (Lambert et al. , 2005) Freud (1909) considered play a means by which children can bring their unconscious thoughts to their consciousness. It was also considered an instrument that helps build a positive and trusting relationship with the therapist.

Over the years of research and clinical studies the various therapeutic outcomes of PT have been assessed. Therapists as able to use PT as a tool to re create stressful situations. This helps release the distressing emotions that a child experiences as a result of the stressful event. When the stressful event is re created in the child’s play environment they are able to develop their own coping strategies to alleviate the distress they experience and in some cases resolve the initial issues that were associated with the event. (p. 240) Knell (1993) developed Cognitive Behavioral PT.

CBPT is a combination of therapeutic PT and cognitive behavioral strategies. It helps the child develop coping strategies and an adaptive way of thinking. (p. 64) PT can have applications in other areas including school and the home environment. Regardless of the environment in which PT is applied it is vital that the child develops a trusting relationship with their therapist. It is also equally important for the therapist to believe and understand that the child can work through their own issues and come with their own coping mechanisms.

It is important that the therapist does not intervene in the process of free play. It is in this free play that the child comes to release their stressful emotions. (Landreth, 2002) PT is the treatment of choice for children in most cases because through the therapeutic strategies PT helps a child develop self confidence and redefined sense of self worth. Children are able to create adaptive behavioral strategies to cope with their stress and learn how to communicate effectively with individuals in their immediate and extended surroundings.

Through free play and a reenactment of the stressful event in a safe environment the child is able to conquer their fear and acquire skills that can effectively combat their negative and faulty thought patterns. PT also helps children release emotions and express themselves through the creative process and problem solving. (Taft, 1933) Effective PT requires that the therapist creates an environment that is accepting and non – judgmental. The child should feel safe and secure to recognize and reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.

The stability that the counselor provides the child in PT sessions will help the child learn of their own ability to solve problems. Above all it is important that the counselors let the children progress through the session at their own individual pace, without redirecting their actions or rephrasing their conversations. These characteristics lead to healthy therapeutic outcomes and an overall reduction in their anxiety provoking situation and other distressing emotions. Landreth, 2002) Through the trusting relationship developed with the therapist the child is able to trust other individuals in their life as well as have more confidence on their own decisions. The clarity that children achieve from PT regarding their emotions and feelings together with the other advantages make PT the treatment of choice for children.