What Can Play Therapy Do to Children?

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I will never forget the faces of the children who were victims of  the flood which destroyed their homes on that fateful night barely a week before Christmas. That was 3 years ago but I can still remember their sad eyes until today. I can still even remember the story of one child who cried while fleeing their home because she left behind her new toys, the gifts she received a few hours earlier during their Christmas party.

Before typhoon Sendong, I’ve never had an experience with play therapy. I did not know about it, all the more that I did not have an idea then what’s it for. Looking back now, I’m grateful that we were able to observe in the play therapy session conducted by ABC 5’s Alagang Kapatid Foundation Inc. with their partners.

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We did it the evening before Christmas day, and that made it more memorable not only for the children but for us the most.

So why Play Therapy? And what happens during Play Therapy?

According to Wikipedia, play therapy is generally employed with children aged 3 through 11 and provides a way for them to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided, self-healing process. As children’s experiences and knowledge are often communicated through play, it becomes an important vehicle for them to know and accept themselves and others.

Play therapy is a form of counseling or psychotherapy that uses play to communicate with and help people, especially children, to prevent or resolve psychosocial challenges. This is thought to help them towards better social integration, growth and development.
Play therapy can also be used as a tool of diagnosis. A play therapist observes a client playing with toys (play-houses, pets, dolls, etc.) to determine the cause of the disturbed behavior. The objects and patterns of play, as well as the willingness to interact with the therapist, can be used to understand the underlying rationale for behavior both inside and outside the session..

According to the psychodynamic view, people (especially children) will engage in play behavior in order to work through their interior obfuscations and anxieties. In this way, play therapy can be used as a self-help mechanism, as long as children are allowed time for “free play” or “unstructured play.” Normal play is an essential component of healthy child development.

One approach to treatment is for play therapists use a type of desensitization or relearning therapy to change disturbing behavior, either systematically or in less formal social settings. These processes are normally used with children.

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