Play Therapy or Creative Arts Therapy for children 3-16
What are the behaviours that Play Therapy can address?
- Self Harming
- Anger/aggressive behaviour
- Poor learning
- Lack of concentration
- Eating disorders
- Bed wetting
- Withdrawn behaviour
- ADHD/Autistic behaviours
- Refusal to go out or to go to school
- OCD Behaviour
- Clingy/will not leave carer/parent
- Controlling behaviour
Possible Reasons for
- Physical/sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Post Natal depression
What is Play Therapy
Play Therapy is a weekly session of 50 minutes, which is on the same day and time every week. Children may be referred by teachers, social workers or come because their parents know they need a little extra help with communicating. During this time children are allowed to play freely with sand, art, clay, puppets, music, in a non-directive way, so they can communicate their inner world through metaphor and stories, or for the really young, they are able to communicate through play.
The therapy is non-judgemental and accepting, allowing the child to safely explore traumas or emotions that they may otherwise not be able to be put into words. It doesn’t matter about creative ability as this isn’t a requisite of the therapy. Children are allowed to explore many parts of themselves through the creative arts, as a medium of expression. Older children can also express in the same way, but may feel the drawing and sand trays are more suitable than actual play.
A little more info
As parents we are often scared at the mere thought of therapy or counselling. It can feel that by succumbing to therapy is to admit we are weak, or bad or wrong or that we are not a good enough parent, or maybe simply not coping. So if you are looking at this website, then maybe you are experiencing difficulties with your child, yourself, or both, and are not sure how to make the next step. I would like to help you to understand a little bit more.
When a child is born, it is born with just the fight/flight ability to survive. Through a gentle, warm, loving nurturing relationship the child is then able to grow the part of its brain which is then capable to think of others, be empathetic, caring, loving, considerate and kind. This part of the brain is developing between the ages of 0-3 and you will find there is a second window of opportunity, to grow again in adolescence. However it is much easier to address at an earlier age. So, why I am telling you all this?
Well, during an infant’s early life, a child may experience many things beyond our control. If a child is separated from their mother during this time, the child may experience a loss and if the child is not nurtured by another caring adult, the child can experience internal feelings of anger, sadness and anxiety and may not know how to express these emotions. So in turn the child will learn to suppress these feelings and may become lethargic, stop playing, withdrawn, and they can also become angry. A child may have been admitted to hospital, or we ourselves may be grieving for a loss or experiencing depression when are children are born. Or we may simply not have been able to be there due to an illness or our own preoccupation.
Any of these circumstances can affect the way in which our child’s brain develops and children too can learn to suppress emotions if they aren’t accepted by others. However if we are unable to help our children in dealing with these feelings then it may be likely that nobody was there for us, or maybe we experienced an early loss or separation in some way that may be affecting our lives now. Please see Adult Therapy.
Play Therapy can help to repair neurobiological (brain development) or to help children to find suppressed emotions. If the brain is not wired correctly, then children can experience difficulties trying to relate to others or communicate verbally, or being empathetic, caring, or able to share. They find it difficult to accept any form of consequences or praise and they simply shut down. When children can’t put their feelings into words Play Therapy can help them express themselves via sand-trays, paintings, drawings, drama, and music. They feel safer talking about their unconscious thoughts and feelings when they can project them onto their creations or they can act them out. For most children they simply don’t know what they are experiencing, but when they draw or create, the pictures can communicate to us without children having to talk about themselves. Talking about a story or a character is far easier than talking about themselves. Or maybe a child will act out a feeling or experience through a role play they have created. Or for young children, they simply need to return to a stage of development that was missed. However a child chooses to express, they know they will be heard and understood and accepted.
Play Therapy helps children regress and repair development milestones that might have been missed or express painful experiences that they haven’t been able to talk about before. Many children can get stuck at a stage in development and remain at that age even though their bodies are growing. So a child who experiences a trauma or difficulty at five and is not able to express this, can remain at that emotional age, even though their bodies are growing. It can be confusing for the child and the adult in their lives. We expect them to behave as teenagers or more grown up, when in fact they are at an emotional age of five.
Play therapy isn’t just for children who have suffered major traumas in their life. It can also help with sibling rivalry, bullying, and learning which can have a deep, lasting and destructive impact on children, until the issues are addressed. Through Play Therapy it may transpire that children have had a difficult birth or experienced an early illness, perhaps a loss and are now exhibiting difficult behaviours or they have become withdrawn. If children have had early difficulties, they usually begin to exhibit problems around the age of seven.
You may find that children are falling behind with their learning, refusing to go to school or experiencing poor concentration, as a result of their experiences. Play therapy can help children express and understand their feelings which can allow them to change their behaviours and develop in areas of self motivation, self esteem, confidence, concentration, and much more.
Sometimes we have to look far deeper and find the real cause of children’s behaviour.