Life Notes: Play Therapy
by Dr. Judy Crow, LMFT, Registered Play Therapist

Play is a powerful phenomenon. William Glasser, a nationally known psychotherapist and author states that fun (play) is a required human need just as air, water and shelter. Play encourages a more joyous approach to living, relieves stress, fosters learning and creativity, improves communication with other people, and enhances bonds with children. The more we develop our playful, child-like nature, the greater ability we have to be with and be trusted by the children in our lives. Whatever form play takes, it taps into our deepest emotions and leads us to discover what is truly meaningful in our lives. In addition, play builds confidence and inner strength and is a source of healing.

Is it no wonder that this particular medium is used almost exclusively with young children in the therapeutic healing of hurt and emotional trauma? Play therapy serves as a valuable intervention with kids who tend to be isolated or socially withdrawn; who display sudden and frequent outbursts of anger; who are disinterested in learning, which manifests itself in academic and/or behavioral problems in school; and who express disrespect for self and others.

PLAY and TOYS are to children what WORDS are to the adult. Children cannot always talk about feelings, but they can recreate in play the experiences that are part of their anger, fears, sadness or frustrations, which are currently influencing their behavior. Play, to children, is a natural way to rehearse for life’s interactions. When facilitated by a trained play therapist who carefully selects therapeutic toys, play therapy leads to understanding and reestablishment of balance in the child’s sense of well-being. A benefit of play therapy is that children can create therapeutic play at their developmental level; and, in turn, develop respect for themselves and others in a trusting supportive environment. Along with this, a measure of self-control and a sense of responsibility are derived when given choices and respect from the play therapist. The Play Therapy Hour is a special time, unlike any other time or relationship a child has experienced because the hour belongs to the child.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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