What is play therapy?

Play therapy is simply a child friendly way of engaging with children. It provides a way for them to talk about their feelings and experiences or to deal with trauma. Children mimic and explore their world through play. So it makes sens that they will often communicate through their play or drawings.

How many sessions will my child need?

In general, I will schedule between 6 to 9 sessions with a new client.  I’m not a big fan of long term therapy for kids as I believe that I can become a crutch. So I try to stay within this schedule as much as possible.  However, should more sessions be needed I will discuss this with a child’s parents.  Initially the first few sessions will focus on the child and therapist getting to know each other. During this stage the therapist tries to understand the situation from the child’s perspective.  The next few sessions will focus on addressing any issues that come up through  the non-threatening medium of play.

What do you do, exactly during a session?

There are virtually hundreds of play therapy techniques that psychologists and play therapists can draw from in a play therapy session, but in general they can be divided into two categories: Therapist-directed play and Child-directed play.  During therapist directed play the therapist will decide which psychological or emotional aspect he or she would like to focus on in the session. And the therapist takes the lead in introducing games and toys. But during Child-directed play the psychologist invites the child to take the lead and mainly takes a back seat.  The therapist now observes the child while he is playing, commenting occasionally on what the child is doing.

Personally, I like to make use of both these techniques during my play therapy sessions.  I generally use the first half-an-hour of a session for Therapist-directed tasks. Then I allow the child to take the lead for the next half-an-hour.  Children may occasionally avoid confronting a particularly painful memory or emotion. In these instances Therapist-directed play therapy is useful as the therapist is able to gently guide the child towards these issues.  Then again, I have often worked with children where I’ve never quite understood how to help them or even what exactly to focus on. Yet by simply being present and reflecting their feelings and behaviour during Child-directed play they have managed to “work through” their own issues. And soon after the presenting problem (the reason their parent first brought them to play therapy) seems to disappear.

Contact me on 082 695 9319 or anel@childpsych.co.za for more information or to set up an appointment.