According to the Association for Play Therapy (APT), play therapy is defined as the systematic process in which “trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psycho-social difficulties for achieving optimal growth.” Similar to counseling for adults, play therapy utilizes children’s natural mode of expression to help them communicate their feelings more easily with toys, rather than words.
A Play therapist utilizes specially chosen toys and other medium such as sculpting, drawing, painting, clay work, sandtray, dollhouse and music to provide children the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings in a developmentally appropriate way. Play therapy gives children an outlet to express internal experiences and allows the therapist to intervene in a way that makes sense to them.
The therapist is able to reflect a child’s feelings, recognize themes, point out patterns and may also teach them techniques to cope with their anger, socialize at school and identify their own feelings. In many cases the therapist may also work with the caretaker of the child and provide in home therapy and case-management. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.