Let's Talk About Play Therapy



What is play therapy?

Play therapy is not just about playing – it is a meaningful, therapeutic process. Play therapy allows children to communicate and work through their emotional experiences. Children express themselves more fully and directly through play than they do through talking. This is because playing is a natural, spontaneous activity for children.

From a developmental perspective, children may lack the cognitive and verbal skills to express their emotions. In play therapy, children can make use of toys and play to communicate their feelings, needs, and worries, without needing the cognitive and language skills that are necessary for talking about these things.

Through play, children are able to assume control and experiment with different problem-solving methods and potential solutions. The play therapy environment creates a safe and confidential space in which the child is free to explore his or her feelings and experiences without judgement. Having a safe space in which the child feels heard and understood contributes to the therapeutic process.  

Play therapy can be used to support children experiencing a range of emotional, social, and behavioural difficulties as well as to enhance their development. Some of the benefits of play therapy for children include enhancing their self-esteem, exploring and expressing their feelings, learning about themselves and others, learning and practicing relationship skills, practicing problem-solving strategies, and increasing their understanding of emotional concepts.

Does my child need play therapy?

Growing up comes with its own set of challenges and some anxiety, moodiness, and difficult-to-manage behaviours may come with your child’s ongoing development. It is important to note, however, that these should not interfere with your child’s functioning or well-being at home, school, or with friends or family.

Here are some of the signs that your child may benefit from play therapy, although it is not an exhaustive list. Early intervention is preferable so if you are concerned about your child’s well-being, chat to us about the best way forward for you and your child.

Consider speaking to a psychologist if:

  • Your child or family is going through a period of transition – e.g. moving to a new house, changing schools, parents or caregivers starting new jobs, the birth of a new sibling, divorce
  • Your child has experienced something traumatic – such as witnessing or being a victim of crime, death of a loved one
  • Your child is experiencing increased (in frequency, duration, or intensity) sadness, anger, worry, or stress
  • Your child is experiencing health problems, difficulty at school, bullying or relationship difficulties  
  • You notice changes in your child’s eating and sleeping routine or behavioural patterns
  • Your child struggles to cope with their emotions and has frequent ‘melt-downs’ or tantrums

Who provides play therapy?

Play therapy is a type of therapeutic intervention that is provided by psychologists (HPCSA, 2014). Psychologists have a minimum of a Masters-level degree and are registered as such with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).  

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