What is Play Therapy?

It’s okay to ask! I didn’t fully know until I applied for a place on my Masters and before then, it was just words. Perhaps you’ve been told by someone who has had play therapy sessions that they’d be great for your child, or you’ve worked with a therapist but you’re not quite sure what it is, and what we do, and how.

It’s a form of children’s counselling that is child-led and person-centred. What does that mean though?

Child-led means that the child has the chance, in the play therapy space (live or virtual) to direct their own session. Some of you are already balking at that word, direct, I can see it! It doesn’t mean manipulate. It doesn’t mean they’re unsupervised. It does mean they’re given autonomy, to resolve their emotions with guidance. It does mean they get their own space, one hour a week for 12+ weeks, to process current or past events with a fully trained mental health professional.

Generally, children who are between 3 and 13 take part in play therapy sessions, and we also run joint sessions with children and parents.  Children come for a whole range of reasons such as but not exclusive to; foster care, adoption, loss, separation, divorce, trauma such as an accident, parental imprisonment and angry or challenging behaviour. This can be adapted so feel free to get in touch if this doesn’t describe your scenario or setting. It’s a medium to long term intervention, meaning that we are committing to your family for the long term. A minimum of 15 sessions, 12 play therapy sessions and 3 parent or carer reviews at the beginning, middle and end, are recommended to get the full impact.

Please check that your therapist is qualified, or in training, with one of the professional bodies – British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT) or Play Therapy UK (PTUK). Your child is too important to be left with someone that isn’t insured and fully trained in the wonderful process that is child-centred, non-directive play therapy.

Play is a non-threatening way for a child to explore their understanding of their world. That’s why play forms such a key part of the foundation phase in Wales, it’s foundational and fundamental in developing pro-social skills, assertiveness and confidence. That means it helps children play well with their friends, understand who they are and how to relate with others. Parents and professionals should see progress that is made in the playroom being replicated elsewhere, at home, in the playground and out and about.

The chances are that if you’re seeking play therapy, you’re already aware how much children can be affected by their mental health, and in turn, how that affects the whole family. 1 in 8 young people have been identified as having a diagnosable mental health condition, yet only 70% are able to get support (Mental Health Foundation, 2020). The waiting lists seem to rise and as they do, children are not getting the chance to start early intervention and support.

It’s hard to put a price on working with someone to help your child grow in confidence, process traumas and benefit your whole family, but research has shown that there is a potential benefit of £5700 per child in counselling including long term outcomes such as improved job prospects and less time in the adult mental health care system (Little, 2017). We believe that your family is worth investing in and that is why we continuously challenge ourselves to provide the best, professional service for your family. All of our therapists are DBS checked, insured and on a professional register for play therapy or counselling. We haven’t met a family yet that has regretted taking the time needed to support their children with play therapy sessions.  

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