What is Play Therapy?
The Association for Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy as "...the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
Some children experience difficulties in making adjustments. Play therapy provides a much-needed opportunity for them to work through these problems in an empathic, unconditional, tolerant, and nurturing environment. Adults generally find relief in talking over their problems or difficulties with a competent, understanding therapist. Young children, on the other hand, have not reached that point in development in which they are able to think and express their thoughts and feelings in words (Landreth, 1993/2002). Researchers such as Piaget (1962) believed that children are not developmentally capable of engaging fully in abstract reasoning or thinking until they are approximately 11 years of age. Therefore, it is difficult for them to talk about things that worry them. Children express themselves more fully and more directly through self-directed spontaneous play than they do verbally because "...play is the child's symbolic language of self-expression, and for children to play out their experiences and feelings is the most natural, dynamic, and self-healing process in which children can engage. Play is serious business and a process through which children build up their confidence in dealing with their environment" (Landreth, 1993, p. 1).
Play therapy is the treatment of choice with children in mental health, schools, agencies, hospitals, residential, and recreational settings (Carmichael, 2006; Gil, 1991; Landreth, 2002; Scahefer, 1993). It is of note that although play therapy is particularly appropriate for children who range in age from 3-12 years, its use with teens and adults is increasing (Pedro-Carroll, & Reddy, 2005; Schaefer, 2003).
What Does My Child Do in Play Therapy?
Play therapy sessions for children are held in my fully-equipped playroom where they can demonstrate their "worries". Children frequently recreate play that resembles the emotional difficulties they are encountering in their daily lives.
Children are encouraged to play with the art materials and toys in the safe and understanding environment of the playroom. I provide a wide variety of carefully selected toys for children in order to encourage the expression of emotional concerns or "worries". Children are given the opportunity to express themselves through a variety of means including and play, art play, dramatic play, and/or fantasy play.
How Does Play Therapy Help My Child?
In the nurturing, accepting, and safe environment of the playroom, children can change their personal understanding or view of events in the environment and begin to improve and enjoy their interactions. Through the play therapy process, children can recreate their frustrations, disappointments, and/or worries and attempt to change the experience of that particular situation in their play. As children begin to enjoy more play experiences and interactions, they will hopefully develop a higher sense of self-esteem and experience more enjoyment of events and activities with family members, friends, teachers, and peers.
Areas addressed in play therapy include Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), physical and learning disabilities, anger management, separation issues, grief, trauma, and family dissolution (Gil & Drewes, 2004; Landreth, Sweeney, Ray, Homeyer, & Glover, 2005; Bratton, Ray, & Rhine, 2005).
How Will I Know if My Child Needs Play Therapy?
All children engage in what adults might refer to as "abnormal behavior" from time to time. It is important for parents to seek help when their child either exhibits the same abnormal behavior for a long time, or when their child begins to exhibit several abnormal behaviors at the same time.
Is Play Therapy Confidential?
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and a psychotherapist. Information is not disclosed without written permission. However, there are number of exceptions to this rule. Exceptions include:
- Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse. The therapist is required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s. The therapist must notify the police and inform the intended victim.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in insuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, further measures may be taken without their permission in order to ensure their safety.
Practitioners who seek the Registered Play Therapist-Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor credential(s) must have fulfilled the following requirements:
Formal training in the art of play therapy as mandated by the Association for Play Therapy (APT). Registered Play Therapists (RPT) and Registered Play Therapists-Supervisors (RPT-S) are licensed or certified practitioners who have earned a Master's or higher mental health degree, 150 or more hours of specialized play therapy training, substantial clinican and play therapy experience and supervision, and at least 36 hours of continuing education during subsequent three-year-renewal cycles.
Registered Play Therapist-Supervisors (RPT-S) must have:.
1. Completed APT-designated core graduate coursework (i.e., ethics, child development, theories of personality, priciples of psychotherapy, and child/adolescent psychopathology).
2. Completed at least 2 years and 2,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, not more than 1,000 hours of which may be pre-Master's degree.
3. Completed an additional 3 years and 3,000 hours of clinical experience which must be verified
4. Completed at least 150 hours of play therapy specific instruction from an institution of higher education or APT-approved provider of continueing education.
5. Completed at least 500 hours of supervised experience that included at least 50 hours of play therapy supervision.
6. Completed an additional 500 hours of play therapy experience which must be verified, but need not be supervised, by a licensed mental health professional.
7. Hold individual state license to engage in either independent or supervised clinical mental health practice.
8. Completed at least 36 hours of continuing education every three years after initial approval.
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Association for Play Therapy official website: