Benefits of Play Therapy

Benefits of Play Therapy

Play therapy was developed early in the 20th century as a way for psychiatrists, psychotherapists, teachers, and other childcare professionals to help young children positively and productively handle a wide range of emotional and physical challenges. The underlying premise of play therapy is to meet children at their own level, where they are most comfortable: in the world of play. Play therapy has been developed by hundreds of therapists over the past 60 years, but  Virginia Axline and Violet Solomon Oaklander are widely considered to be its most influential innovators.  In 2008, the British Association of Play Therapists defined play therapy as:

“The dynamic process […] in which the child explores at his or her own pace and with his or her own agenda to those issues, past and current, conscious and unconscious, that are affecting the child’s life in the present.”

While older children, adolescents, and adults can engage in abstract conversations about difficult things that are going on in their lives, younger children are often unwilling and/or unable to discuss challenging issues. Play therapy creates a unique situation in which young children and a therapist can explore a child’s inner life in a way that is safe and healthy.

Recently, however, therapists have developed a modified version of play therapy for teens with a history of complex trauma. This new approach to play therapy for adolescents is called trauma-informed play therapy. Adolescents who experience complex trauma during childhood can benefit from play therapy for some of the same reasons young children can: their inability to identify and discuss complex emotions makes play an ideal forum for exploring their trauma in a safe and supportive environment

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