February is Play Therapy Awareness Week which is a great time to talk about the benefits of play therapy. At Treehouse Family Counseling Services, our therapists use play therapy in their practice including sand tray, drawing, arts & crafts, and imaginative play. It has been said that play is the language of children, and we listen to what children are saying through their play.
Children, especially younger children, have difficulty talking through what is bothering them but will project that issue onto the play. Play is also a non-threatening way for children to problem solve, create alternative endings, and explore different roles. When engaging in play therapy with children, the goal is to see the world through the child’s eyes. This gives us insight into their world, their relationships, their culture, their hopes, and their fears. But children are not the only clients who benefit from play therapy.
Play therapy can help adults to process trauma and emotions from their childhood using the language of play. Adults also benefit through indirect means, such as sand tray, to communicate emotions and interactions that may be challenging to address in a typical talk therapy session.
Adults tend to be cerebral and try to outthink their problems, symptoms, and challenges. But play therapy can engage a different part of the brain and allow for deeper healing to occur. Some adults may feel silly or embarrassed by the request to engage in play therapy. Yet most are surprised by the level of processing that happens when the thinking brain is turned off and the subconscious, emotional part of the brain is activated. Play can also be the language of adults if they allow it to be.
So, this month we celebrate play therapy for how beneficial it is to our work with children, adults, and their mental health. We also acknowledge that the need for support is greater than ever as many people are experiencing mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression, as result of the ongoing pandemic. Treehouse Family Counseling Services will continue to provide a safe environment to play and heal for those who seek support.
Michelle A. Culver, LMFT