Written By: Michelle Fox, M. Ed., LPC-S RPT-S
Here at Denton County Friends of the Family our therapists are both excited and honored to be a part of a child’s journey through play therapy. Children utilize play as a way to process the world around them. If play is the language of children, toys are the words. Think back to when you were a child, if it was up to you, you would have played all day long! In play therapy, a child might play with a doll showing their ability to nurture, or a child might build a tall tower out of blocks displaying their need to master a task. Play therapy allows a child to explore their inner thoughts and feelings in a way that is developmentally appropriate. Play can be fun, challenging, and sometimes very serious. The sandbox can be a world of fantastic moments, adventures, challenges made, monsters destroyed, princesses avenged, or a fun day on the beach. Regardless, it all has important meaning to a struggling child. Trained play therapists understand how to effectively communicate with children by providing a safe place for children to process any issues that might be present for them. A play therapist can literally speak a child’s language!
Trauma affects children by teaching them the world is unsafe and unpredictable. When working with children who have experienced trauma, we might see children who are anxious, withdrawn, or angry. Parents and teachers often report their children or students having trouble focusing, sitting still, and appearing to struggle to connect with their peers. Children who experience trauma can come to play therapy to heal by experiencing a safe environment with a safe person, thus showing the child that the world can be a great place!
In 2018, our play therapists have completed 5,013 hours of play therapy. We have seen an increase of self-esteem, greater child/parent relationship bonds, and a decrease of fearfulness and acting-out behaviors. Our parents express that their children have an increase in self-regulation and have displayed more self-control. Some parents have even stated that play therapy has given their child the space to learn how to just be a kid.