Episode 15: Play and Art Therapy
Play therapy can be a helpful way to make learning information from therapy fun and easy for kids. Talk therapy can be difficult for young kids, especially in early childhood when they do not yet have the vocabulary for a lot of the things we talk about (e.g., feelings, coping skills). By presenting the information through play, it can help keep their attention and show them the information/skills. And there are a lot of different forms play therapy can take, including art, games, and so on.
But what is it about play therapy that is helpful? There are a few different components. First, the psycho-education component (e.g., teaching about emotions and coping). Second, it offers opportunities for increasing the strength of social bonds. Third, it gives opportunities for parents and teachers to reinforce appropriate and adaptive behaviors (e.g., giving a labeled praise for using a coping skill). Fourth, it can help teach kids various additional social skills, like turn taking, frustration management, and so on. Fifth, it can provide kids with opportunities to show/draw their feelings when they may not have the words to express them yet. And sixth, some forms of play therapy (e.g., art) can promote mindfulness.
And how should play therapy be structured? It can be helpful if it's with a clinician, but it's most effective if parents are involved. That can be for a number of reasons, including: parents can engage in play therapy more frequently with their child than a clinician, children have a stronger bond with their parents and will use them as models of good coping skills more than they will with a clinician, and it helps to strengthen the bond between parent and child. So if you're seeing a child therapist, expect to be involved in the play therapy process and for them to teach you the skills to use at home.