What is Play-Based Therapy?
Play is a child’s natural form of communication just as talking is an adult’s natural way of communication. Play allows us to engage, interact and dialogue in a deep and meaningful way unhindered by verbal ability. It can often be difficult to find the words to express the things we think and feel. Play provides a medium for a natural flow of conscious and unconscious thought. Even individuals who are quite talkative express themselves more fully through their play. For children, emotions are often difficult to understand and even more difficult to express. Play provides a non-threatening way for children to express themselves and "try on" new ways of thinking and acting.
Who can benefit from Play-Based Therapy? What age is most appropriate?
Play-Based Therapy is typically used with children. However, play-based approaches have also been found useful with adolescents and adults. Play-based therapy helps the individual by providing another avenue to process emotions that they may not be able to express in other ways, helps to develop independence and creative thinking and can be a contributor to creating stronger relationships between family members. While play-based therapy has been found to benefit individuals of all ages, it is especially appropriate for children age 3 to 12 years of age.
What happens when I want my child to come for therapy?
If you believe your child could benefit from counselling services the psychologist will need to first obtain informed consent from the parents/guardians of the child. Informed consent must be obtained from a legal guardian. In the event of joint custody, both parents/guardians will be asked to provide informed consent before the child may be seen in therapy. Before meeting with the child, the psychologist will meet with the parents/guardians to complete the informed consent conversation and conduct an intake interview. The intake interview will help provide information about the area of concern and history of the concern. This consent/intake session is considered an individual counselling session for the parent/guardian and will be billed as such therefore working to ensure that any available insurance coverage for the child is not impacted by the consent/intake session.
How do I prepare my child for a Play-Based Therapy session?
You may tell your child that they will be spending time with a therapist in a special playroom where there are toys to play with. If your child wants to know why they are going to meet with a therapist to play, you may say something like, “when things are hard for you at home (or at school), sometimes it helps to have a special place to play”. It is important for the child to feel safe in play-based therapy.
The therapist will maintain “confidentiality”, which means that what children specifically say and do in play-based therapy will be kept private (except in some situations including allegations of abuse or harm to self and others). Confidentiality allows children to feel secure enough to fully express themselves without being inhibited by concerns over their parents’ reactions or feelings. The therapist will involve the parents by sharing general themes, helpful responses and progress in therapy with the parent.
The play therapist may meet with the parents on a regular basis and may also facilitate family therapy in which all or some family members participate to work toward therapeutic success for the child.