What is Play Therapy and How Can it Help My Child?
It is often said that play is the natural language of a child. Play Therapy is one of the most trauma-informed and gentle yet effective therapeutic modalities available to children. The Play Therapy modality I utilize is Experiential, and depending on the age and developmental level of the child is non-directive, directive, or a combination of the two. In Experiential Play Therapy, the therapist is an active part of the process. While the child often leads the play, choosing which toys to play with and how, and whether or not to include the therapist, the therapist is always there to act as a sort of 'emotional mirror', reflecting back the actions and emotions evident in the child's play, so that this can be brought gently to the consciousness of the child.
It is important to keep in mind that your child playing with a play therapist is very different from your child playing with a friend or even a parent. In the therapy playroom, children are able to do and say many things that otherwise may not be considered appropriate in your child's home or school setting, such as playing with aggressive toys, using profanity, using figurines to "play out" their trauma or sexual abuse, etc. With an experienced play therapist, a child is given permission to express and vent their emotions fully, so that when they go back to their home, school, etc., they can be more regulated, socially skilled and able to use their "thinking mind" more often.
The therapist provides safe and gentle boundaries and limits as needed, allowing the child to relax and play comfortably. Children are always able to bring in drinks and non-messy snacks, and I will provide snacks if the child is feeling peckish (such as Goldfish). Children are also allowed to bring in one or two toys that are important to them.
Through Play Therapy, children learn to explore and to recognize their own emotions, behavior patterns, and family dynamics, and will often learn to verbalize these emotions, strengthening the integration between the right and left side of the brain. Being able to eventually verbalize emotions is a powerful step for children, and with this, parents and therapist often see a decrease in unhealthy, aggressive behavior.
Directive Play Therapy involves the use of therapeutic games, psycho-education (such as teaching children about their brain, their nervous system and how to use coping skills), puppet play, art projects and writing activities. In this way, they can learn more about their emotional states, and learn to use and practice coping skills to use at home, at school, or in the community. Other therapeutic modalities, such as CBT, Mindfulness, DBT, Somatic Therapy, etc. can be easily added to any directive Play Therapy session, and are often useful and effective in the child's emotional growth.
What is a Registered Play Therapist?
There is a lot of training, consultation and work that goes into being a registered play therapist. According to the Association for Play Therapy, "The Association for Play Therapy (APT) confers the designation of Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor (RPT-S) to individuals who have provided APT with documentation that they have a) a mental health graduate or higher degree; b) been licensed by the applicable state licensing or certification authority; c) completed a minimum number of hours of general clinical experience and supervision (500 hours of supervised play therapy specific experience, plus 50 hours of concurrent play therapy specific supervision.); d) completed a minimum number of hours of play therapy training and supervision (150 hours of play therapy specific instruction from institutions of higher education or APT-approved providers ); and e) completed the requisite continuing education hours (18 hours of play therapy specific instruction from institutions of higher education or APT-approved providers every 36 months.)."
Please see the Association for Play Therapy’s website for more information about the effectiveness of play therapy at www.a4pt.org.
Maggie Young (she, her, hers)
950 S. Cherry St., Suite 419
Denver, CO 80246
Phone (call or text): (720) 316-1182
Hours for psychotherapy:
Hours for PLSR: Thursdays 10:00-3:30