Wholeness Healing Today


Play Therapy: An invitation to a Child’s Inner World

As children, in some form, we played. Reflecting on our childhood playtime can be some of our fondest memories. Although it appeared to be solely for our enjoyment, our play had greater purposes than we may have been initially aware. Play is a natural process that fosters learning, regulates emotions, promotes creative thinking and problem- solving, encourages communication, builds trust and elevates our self-esteem. Through play we grew.

Play therapy is an approach to therapy that allows individuals to engage in experiences in order to share their perspective, grow in answers and heal. Often, we associate ‘play’ with children. Play simply means ‘to take part in’. Play therapy is for all ages to involve themselves in the development of self. For the purpose of this article, however, the focus will be on children.

Developmentally, children don’t engage in abstract reasoning until age 11. Insight starts to develop at age 12. These  stages of development can greatly impact the ability to communicate and learn in ways constructed for them. As adults we often expect children to verbally process and communicate their needs, because we can understand verbal communication. However, in order to reach children, we have to speak their language. A child’s natural language is play.

An office for play therapy can often raise emotions for anyone who enters. In the room may be art supplies, books, games, puppets, a sand tray with miniatures and toys. And just as an adult entering the room may begin to feel drawn towards certain toys, a child will too. These ‘toys’ are the language of play.

When a licensed professional takes on the responsibility of using the medium children are comfortable in, children
are more accepting of therapy. “. . . Play helps overcome resistance to therapy.” (Homeyer, & Morrison, 2012, p. 212).
Play bridges the gap between concrete experiences and abstract thought. It creates a means to the child’s inner world.

Children often begin play therapy with non-directive play. Allowing free play supports the child in developing communication; it facilitates their social development as they engage in imaginary roles. In these stages, play has a bonding effect. It can support children learning to trust, as well as strengthen attachment to their caregivers. During the exploration phase, children often develop in their motor and physical skills, and through cause and effect experiences, they develop cognitively, emotionally and socially.

Children often manage their reality through symbolic play and reenactment. Within the world they create, children are safe to try new coping skills. These solutions created are long lasting, as neuroscience suggests the play helps b uild and strengthen neural pathways in the brain. (Field., & Echterling, 2016).

Once the child shares through play, the therapist can then help place words to the child’s experience and work with the caregivers to help understand, promote change and foster healing for the child and within the family. If you in any way feel a child you know would benefit from Play Therapy, I want to invite you to come play. “Time spent playing with children is never wasted”. —Dawn Lantero (Seidi, 2016)

Works Cited

Field, T. A., & Echterling, L. G. (2016). Neuroscience and the magic of play therapy. International Journal of Play Therapy, 25(1), 4–13. https://doi.org/10.1037/pla0000016

Homeyer, L. E., & Morrison, M. O. (2012). Play therapy; Practice, issues and trends. Retrieved from journalofplay.org

Seidi, R. (2016, August 8). https://www.theodysseyonline.com/14-childrens-quotes. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from theodysseyonline.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Provisional Licensed Mental Health Practitioner

  • Chrissy is a Provisionally Licensed Mental Health Practitioner. She graduated with her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in July 2016. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Hastings College in May 2010. Chrissy did her internship at Wholeness Healing Center prior to joining the team full time, in September of 2016. Chrissy works in the Grand Island office.

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