What is so special about play therapy? How is it possible that a room full of toys and an adult can create meaningful change?
Firstly, we don’t have just any toys. We choose toys that facilitate expression and understanding. We create an environment with emotional processing and expressive needs of the child at the center.
Baby dolls and bottles allow children to practice nurturing and empathy. Toy swords and bop bags allow them to express aggression in safe and appropriate ways. Sand trays and miniature figurines allow children to build entire worlds where they can process meaningful experiences. To name but a few.
We don’t just have any adults, either. We have specially trained, emotionally attuned, super-fun adults. Our adults are different. They don’t pretend to be authorities, they know they don’t have all the answers. Our adults know that the child has in them everything they need to heal, to grow, to thrive. Our adults cherish children. They are relentless in their protection of this sacred liminal space. They are ceaseless self-educators, reflectors, and collaborators.
Our adults are champions of the wonders of childhood. They are safe spaces and megaphones for the voices that not all can hear.
Play therapists speak a language that can sometimes leave them feeling a little lonely in the world. But we wear that badge proudly and we do our best to translate. Part of our work is to help others understand the language of childhood.
We have a specialized toolkit for a vital mission: to give children the power of feeling heard, seen, and fully accepted.
Play therapy is a place for children to become empowered. It is through acceptance children learn to identify and express feelings in healthy ways. Through compassionate limit setting and consistency they learn respect for themselves and others. Through leading play they develop coping and problem-solving skills, and lastly, maybe most importantly, children learn to take responsibility for their choices and behavior.