Children are often unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings through verbal communication, which can creates inner conflict and often behavioral concerns. Play therapy can help children learn more helpful behaviors, understand their emotions, and gain insight about resolving inner conflicts. Through play therapy, children also learn self-control, self respect, to express their feelings, problem solving, communication skills, and to modify problem behaviors. Play therapy is most often utilized for children ages 3-12 years, to help better express themselves and resolve their struggles. Research suggests play therapy is an effective mental health approach, regardless of age, gender, or the nature of the problem, and works best when a parent, family member, or caretaker is actively involved in the treatment process.
Play therapy can be utilized to address the needs of neurodivergent children as well as supporting parents and children to feel more connected. Play therapy strives to enhance attachment, self-esteem and trust in others. Through the use of play therapy techniques, children can process through trauma, triggers, or stressful situations in a healthy and productive way. The therapist assists children in processing through their thoughts and feelings in order to manage their overwhelming emotions through the use of calm down techniques. Parents and children are considered co-change agents in the therapy process and work as partners with the therapist to increase these skills.
Sand Tray Therapy
A good number of clients (mostly teenagers and adults) benefit greatly from sand tray therapy, even when they’re first skeptical about “playing in the sand.” Most people quickly come to realize that using a sand tray is so much more than just “playing” in the sand, although some clients prefer to just play with the sand for the sensory experience while talking. When using sand tray, your therapist may ask you to make scenes in the tray. For example, to create a scene of your happiest memory. You then have the option to choose from hundreds of figurines of different animals, people, vehicles, plants and countless other items that may represent your happiest memory. That memory is then discussed and built upon therapeutically to whatever extent you are comfortable with, and feelings that come up are further explored. The sensory experience of sand tray combined with the freedom to express different life events, thoughts, and feelings in a multidimensional way, often creates a powerful therapeutic experience.