"What is play therapy?" This is a question I am asked often! It may sound like I am "just playing" with kids, but there is more to it. The best way to explain it is that children under the age of 10 are not quite able to talk and sort through issues verbally as their brain hasn't yet fully developed for this. Instead a play therapist is trained in using the healing powers of play to communicate with and treat chidren. Puppets, doll house figures and other toys provide safe outlets for kids to experience and explore stressors, traumas and other concerns. And yes- we can still be playful and creative over a screen during this time of telehealth.
For older children and teens, play-based activities including expressive/creative arts can help them open up more comfortably. I often use sandtray therapy as a modality for them to process traumatic and stressful events in a safer way. Since trauma and other negative memories are often stored in our right brain, having a right-brain based activity like sandtray therapy works to help calm, regulate and safely process.
Children and adolescents today face many stressors that can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming for them. Expressive and creative arts therapies may include art techniques, movement, writing and even music. They can be so helpful for these issues- we can even do some of them within family therapy so parents / caregivers can share in this fun yet therapeutic experience!
I utilize nature too in my practice! I am a huge believer of the healing properties of nature- that together when added with the therapeutic powers of play can be a such a dynamic duo! This "double-dose of healing" is a growing modailty within the play therapy field called Nature Play Therapy. In my practice I incorporate both structured and nonstructured nature-based therapeutic activities with children, teens and their families- which I call "NaturePlay." I have found these are so often needed as children and and adolescents spend more and more time indoors with electronics and less time outside. We are seeing depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns increase with so much of childhood occuring indoors. There is a growing recognition of this "Nature-Deficit Disorder" and research is supporting the healing power of nature more all the time. So I endeavor to bring NaturePlay to my clients when I can and work with therapeutically as well as encourage them to go outside and play in between sessions too! I call these Nature Adventures (sounds much better than "homework") and they are a part of the NaturePlay experience. Since movement is another treatment strategy that can help deal with stress, playing outside in nature is a win-win! Even during telehealth, I can have chlidren take me outside (with permission and safety precautions) via their screens and we can still do NaturePlay activities together. "NaturePlay is my Healing Way" is something I say- and feel- alot.
If you have any other questions about my experience or treatment approaches, I am more than happy to talk with you further. You can also explore the website at the Association for Play Therapy at www.a4pt.org to learn more about play therapy. If interested, my journey to becoming a play therapist is included in the second half of the Supervision page.