Play Therapy for Children Ages 3 to 11
Developmentally responsive space for growth and healing.
What does a play therapist do?
Play therapists provide an environment that children experience as supportive and understanding.
Children process their experiences in ways that are different from adults. While their language skills are still developing, children often communicate, build relationships, and test their ideas by using toys.
Using play to make sense of their world is natural for children throughout the globe. Instead of talking through their difficulties, in play therapy children are given the opportunity to “play it through.”
Carefully selected toys, along with the therapist who is specially trained to address the unique needs of young children, allow the child to experience therapeutic space that supports growth and healing.
Here’s one way to think about it:
Benefits of Play Therapy
Through play therapy, kids grow in their emotion regulation. By recognizing their big emotions, they learn how to manage them. Understanding one’s self at a deeper level enhances feelings of well-being and self-confidence.
We all know that there are things in life that don’t go as planned. That happens sometimes in the playroom, too. Play therapy supports kids’ capacity to roll with life’s ups and downs, increasing their frustration tolerance.
Play therapy also fosters kids’ self-directed decision making. They grow to trust themselves to make good decisions.
Kids discover healthy ways to bounce back from setbacks and disappointments. These self-enhancing coping strategies help across all stages of life and in a variety of circumstances.
The self-control that kids develop in play therapy comes as a result of knowing how to successfully cope. They experience an inner calm. When they feel understood and supported, kids come to trust relationships which leads to more pro-social behaviors.
More About Play Therapy
Across all cultures, all children tend to spontaneously play. Play is a child’s natural language. In many ways, children are not like adults, partly because their verbal abilities have not fully matured. While their capacity for language is under development, they still have a lot of ways to communicate!
And they have a lot they want us to know about them. Their behaviors – even the ones we find completely mysterious – represent their attempts to get their underlying needs met.
They have a deep desire to feel understood – like they know the other person gets them.
Using a child’s ‘natural’ language
Traditional psychotherapy, or talk therapy, uses methods that are not consistent with the communication needs of young children. In play therapy, children’s natural language is used instead to help support them as they process their own experiences, whether mundane routines, enjoyable celebrations, or painful trauma.
As young children experience the warm acceptance and understanding of the play therapist, the child uses the relationship to integrate their experiences, grow in their self-understanding, and develop pro-social and self-enhancing ways of being.
They come to a deeper sense of trust in themselves to find successful ways of coping and getting their needs met. They grow in their capacity to tolerate frustration. They become more self-controlled and have a deeper capacity to regulate their emotions.
As a counselor with specialized training in play therapy, what I do is really all about building a relationship that your child will come to experience as safe and accepting. I believe the therapeutic relationship is ultimately what allows for the growth and healing that many children find through play therapy.
Take the first step to gather help for your child; call or email me to get the guidance your child needs.
By phone: (704) 659-6220
Evidence for Play Therapy?
For many years, evidence for play therapy was not widely reported. However, recently, professionals in the field of play therapy have focused efforts to reach a wider audience about its effectiveness, and particularly Child-Centered Play Therapy. The outcome of many years of evidence-based research is summarized here: