What Is Play Therapy
Like the name suggests, play therapy uses playing as a form of therapy. However, the play in therapy is systematic and uses a theoretical model to create personal relationships. A trained therapist uses the power of play to help clients learn how to prevent and resolve problems for a better life.
Who Is a Play Therapist
Playing therapy requires a specialist with extensive knowledge and experience in the field. A play therapist is licensed to handle mental health conditions professionally and holds a degree in mental health.
Additionally, with specialized training and proper supervision, a mental health specialist can earn a Registered Play Therapist recognition by the Association for Play Therapy(APT).
How Does Play Therapy Work?
Well, it’s not exclusive to children. Adults or parents are encouraged to attend the sessions for emotional support and help with self-esteem as well.
The old fashioned way of a therapist sitting across a desk from their client won’t work well with children. So play works to set a natural, relaxed, and safe environment for the child to express their emotions in non-verbal cues.
The toys and techniques in the play therapy sessions should be comfortable and a fun way for the client to communicate bundled feelings without inhibition.
With a better understanding of gameplay therapy, what are some of the therapy games to use and help your clients open up and communicate?
10 Play Therapy Games You Can Play
Before picking a game, it’s essential to understand the clients’ needs. Because play therapy engages children, mainly, the therapist should know that each child’s need is different, including;
- The therapeutic goals for the children
- The child’s developmental age
- If it’s a group or individual attendance
A sand try contains sand, small toys, and rakes. Many children use the tools provided to role-play real lie experiences based on an event. With the sandbox, the open child ups trying to make sense of the real world.
Children are naturally good actors. A therapist uses the role of others to help a child act our situations bothering them—for example, abuse, neglect, or traumatic experience of being bullied at school.
During the role-play, the child opens up and works through the emotions and feelings at ease using fun. This enhances their social skills as well.
A therapist will make use of a board game or a physical game in this type of game.
A board game distracts the children’s minds easily, letting them talk about an experience calmly and in the middle of a game.
Some examples like Red Light, Mother May I, and Green Light help children learn about giving up control, taking turns, and being self-sufficient.
It creates an avenue for teamwork and allows relaxation of the mind. The therapist can use the opportunity to help work out emotional traumas.
Sensory Activities And Relaxation Tools
Tools like calm-down bottles help the child learn how to calm down more quickly. How? The bottle contains a liquid with glitter where the child shakes it, and as the contents settle down, the therapist teaches the child how to calm down as well.
Other tools in this category used are the worry dolls. The children are instructed to take off all their worries and leave them with the dolls. This way, they unburden and return the dolls after the session is over.
During a future appointment, the children take out the dolls one by one describing each worry left behind.
Tools To Express Feelings and Emotions
Using tools like clay, the child will express their emotions completely because clay helps show anger, sadness, fear, or worry. How? Through their creation of characters, you can tell what emotion they are expressing when modeling.
Drawing is another excellent tool to use. A therapist can ask the child to draw out their emotions on paper. Whatever they come up with, if well studied, will represent a situation that made them feel pain, joy, sadness, or plain old happiness.
Additionally, drawing can help a child understand death based on what they draw. For example, when they draw a family picture without the loved one, then you can try and explain the reasons while they express how it makes them feel.
A finger painting activity releases happy emotions where you can quickly get information in this state.
Play Therapy Games To Develop Social Skills
As you continue to interact with the child, tools to develop their interactions socially are essential. An imaginative game like playing mother and child allows the child to empathize with the mother and understand their role.
The use of puppets is effective in children. As the name and play with the tools, the therapist could interact with each pretends character and establish the role each puppet plays emotional for the child.
Coloured Candy Go Around Games
The colored candy go works well because of children and everybody else like candy for starters. It engages the child and allows them to let loose. You will need M&M or Skittles. Give the child seven pieces of candy and let them sort them out by color. Instruct them, depending on the number of colors, to respond to the following prompts;
- Green – Use words to describe the family
- Orange – What needs to be improved in the family set up
- Red – Representing what worries them
- Yellow – Describe their favorite memories
- Purple – To describe fun activities the family does
Emotions Ball Games
Among the family therapy activities, this one works well to express emotions, especially in children who might be uncomfortable describing their feelings. Using a ball, write a feeling on each side. Have the child toss the ball back and forth. You might have emotions like joy, happiness, sadness, etc. on the ball. Once they catch the ball, let them describe a time when they had that particular feeling.
This a group therapy activity to help families discuss their emotions while the rest listen.
Death is a new experience for children. It is confusing and frightening for them as they don’t understand it yet. But the emotions ball is an excellent avenue to allow them to let out the grief and confusion happening.
A genogram represents a schematic of the family tree. While it can be used to map out blood and medical relations, a therapist similarly uses it to draw a family’s emotional relationships.
With the genogram, the child can root out emotional ties and their impacts. For example, abuse and divorce are major family disruptions. The child can point out who and where the disconnect started.
This play uses feelings on written charade cards. You could call it a card game.
The clients pick cards and act out the emotions written. The aim is to allow the therapist to analyze how clients express their feelings in the family set up. Best for teens and very therapeutic.
Other activities like storytelling go along way in letting down the child’s guard. In the story, they can talk about new experiences, skills learned, and how to navigate the feelings that come with the trauma. Based on the characters created, the therapist can better understand the child’s inner world and how to ease any negative emotions in it.
Therapy with kids works well when other family members are involved. Besides a little game of cards, candy and drawing open up the most reserved.
Children develop their expressive language tools as they grow up. Bottling emotions is a risky affair after eventful experiences and can produce a toxic adult. When they share these traumatic ordeals, they become free to live a happier life.
Based on results after using games and play therapy activities, children make sense of their world, emotions, and feelings. Games are an alternative to sitting across the table, looking intimidating.
Besides, all work and no play makes a dull child.
Interested in more? Check out our upcoming Play Therapy CEUs