therapy play

Play Therapy Themes

Therapists face one of the biggest challenges in family therapy when dealing with children. For this reason, play therapy remains an effective practice to help children deal with past trauma

Playing is a natural opportunity where children can share important information. Play therapists include child-centered play games during family therapy to give a child an avenue to open up with no coercion. A child may self express emotional behaviors and responses or replay real-life experiences with an adult.

The therapy sessions have child-centered activities. Based on the child’s interactions with the tools and toys provided by the therapist, a theme may begin to show as the child tries to understand and make sense of an event.

As the child’s mind continues to sift through the toys, look out for these play themes to help interpreter a child’s behavior. An important aspect as the therapist, ensure your toys cover, and address the below themes of play. One theme can overlap another. Get the right tools for each session.

Family Relationship and Affection Themes in play therapy

  • Parent/Guardian/Caregiver
  • Lack of attachment or detachment
  • Regression
  • Self-Nurturance
  • Togetherness or Separation
  • Affection for others
  • The in and out into family systems

Exploration and Mastery Play Therapy Themes

In this category, the themes for play your client might display include;

  • Cheating or winning plays
  • Creativity
  • Mastery or Competence
  • Sensory or Environment Exploration

Power and Aggression Themes

A patient will showcase the need to be in charge and take control of the situation. The child’s relationship with the tools provided will give the below indications for this theme. In child therapy, the dominant role depicts who is in control.

  • Hero versus Villan
  • Oppressor / Oppressed
  • Dying or Death
  • Devouring
  • Seeking Authority/Leadership/Power
  • Strong versus Weak
  • Generalized Aggression

Another area to look out for in play therapy themes is,

Control and Safety Play Themes

  • Cleaning
  • Sorting
  • Messing
  • Fire/Disasters
  • Escape
  • Danger
  • Rescue
  • Drowning or Burying
  • Doctor centered play therapy theme
  • Fixing or Repairing
  • Manipulation
  • Refusing to take action
  • Protecting

Interaction Based Themes

  • Self Acceptance or Rejection
  • Positive Interactions
  • Negative Interactions
  • Boredom
  • Building a Relationship with an Adult

Sexualized Play

Learning your child’s understanding or attitude towards sex, in general, could get you closer to knowing how to handle sexual topics with less anxiety. Play therapy examples you could see include;

  • Sexual Curiosity
  • Sexual habits towards adults
  • Previously encountered sexual activities.

Playing not only opens up the child’s inner and innocent being. But when the parents are involved, it makes for an easier time to identify causes and solutions for whatever trauma or difficulties the child suffered.

Depending on the severity of an accident, a child might engage in the same play theme non-stop. Some children will play between different themes to communicate an event or replay roles in themes as well.

Play is voluntary and self-chosen. It’s therapeutic, especially when it’s engaging, meaningful, and fun. The child works through different experiences and emotions, all in the name of a game.

Interested in more? Check out our upcoming Play Therapy CEUs

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