It can be hard for adults to “get through” to children, especially those who may suffer from a mental and emotional health issue. Play therapy has been an effective and gentle way to engage children individually and at their own pace. Aware of the positive impact that it can have on children of all ages, the pediatric caregivers of Renaissance’s home care program are pleased to incorporate play therapy into their home care practices. Here’s a close look at what play therapy has to offer and how you may incorporate it into the daily activities of your child.
What is Play Therapy?
“Play therapy” is so much more than just playing; it occurs when a therapist encourages a patient to play during a session, rather than simply asking questions in a formal way. This works particularly well with children because it allows them to feel less intimidated, to be more open to expressing themselves, and to sort through what can be complicated emotions in a less stressful manner.
This form of therapy can be directive or nondirective. A therapist is using a directive form of play therapy when they ask a patient to use puppets to show what life at home is like, for example. An example of nondirective play therapy would be letting the patient play with particular toys however they choose to observe how they interact and what they choose to express.
What Does Play Therapy Treat?
Play therapy may be easily adapted to focus on particular issues or afflictions. Depending on the child’s needs, a therapist may employ play therapy for ADHD, for anxiety, and/or for any other mental or emotional condition. There are play therapy techniques for anger, which teaches patients less destructive ways to express themselves, just as there are play therapy activities for trauma sufferers, which can help them connect with extremely stressful memories that may otherwise be too painful.
Examples and Types of Play Therapy
Play therapy can be further customized based on the patient’s likes and dislikes, specific objectives, and of course, different age groups. Some patients may be more engaged by storytelling or role play, while others may prefer activities with toys.
- Toy and Object Play. Activities using toys and other objects – such as balls and blocks, dolls, and balloons – often become metaphorical. For example, a therapist could be looking at how the child interacts with a doll to assess whether there are signs of abuse. A child could be asked to throw a ball at a stack of blocks as a means to release anger or to symbolically attack a problem.
- Storytelling and Metaphors. Therapists can externalize a patient’s problems so that they can discuss them with less pain – such as making up a monster character to represent a set of fearful or bad memories, and then talking about how to deal with this monster. Coping strategies can also be introduced as metaphors; for example, for anxiety or other episodes, the child could be taught to imagine themselves as an armadillo that rolls up in a protective ball and, once in this safe space, takes the time to think things through.
- Roleplaying. Roleplaying can be a good way for children who have a hard time expressing themselves to provide the therapist with helpful information. Having the patient choose costume pieces can tell them a lot about things like confidence, self-worth, and perceived strengths and weaknesses. What superhero powers would this child choose? Would they dress up as a knight, king, or jester? Roleplaying a scenario which the child fears may also demonstrate that the problem is actually not as unmanageable as they think.
Promoting Health and Wellness with Pediatric Home Care
Renaissance believes in a personalized approach to play therapy and pediatric home care because everyone is different and people see different meanings. In addition, Renaissance knows that patients need to feel at ease to open up. Play therapy is an excellent, customizable tool to use when the patients are children. Plus, the fun aspect makes therapy much more pleasant and effective for the patient.
Contact us today to find out more about play therapy and discover how our pediatric home care providers can tailor it to the needs and personality of your child.