The Utility of Play Therapy

As children do not always have the language to express themselves, their needs and stories are often best expressed via play. Landreth (2012) defines play as the universal language of children.
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As children do not always have the language to express themselves, their needs and stories are often best expressed via play. Landreth (2012) defines play as the universal language of children. Play has been observed in virtually every culture since the beginning of recorded history, and is not only central but also vital to childhood development (Mulligan, 2012).

Play is perhaps the most developmentally suitable medium for young children to cultivate safe and meaningful child-adult relationships, process anxiety-provoking experiences, learn and practice social skills and develop cause-effect thinking related to impulse control (Bratton et al., 2013). Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which play is used to communicate with and help clients, usually children, prevent or resolve psychosocial challenges. The modality of play therapy can be modified according to the therapeutic setting and to the client’s age and circumstance.

Though many approaches to play therapy exist, child-centered play therapy has been found to be one of the most effective (Blanco, Ray, & Holliman, 2012; Bratton et al., 2013). Developed by Gary Landreth (1993) and based on the work of Carl Rogers, the underlying premise of child-centered play therapy is that children possess an instinctive force within themselves to heal and grow. Through a supportive and caring relationship with child clients, play therapists can help children understand themselves and their feelings, take responsibility for their behaviors in the playroom and ultimately learn to be aware of and make conscious choices about their own behaviors.

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