Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Exclusive Video: Peek inside an actual Play Therapy Room! Hint- It's not your average therapy space.
If you're reading this, you might be wondering what on Earth Play Therapy is, and how it works. I know because I had the same questions myself before enrolling my son. News Alert! Even mental health professionals don't know everything. Luckily, I work with the amazing Celeste Inman, MEd, LPC-S, RPT-S. Being a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor means she actually trains and mentors other clinicians looking to become certified in Play Therapy. She gave me the break-down about Play Therapy, which I'm sharing with you through the lens of a parent.
What is Play Therapy?
According to The Play Therapy Association of the United States,
"Play therapy is a structured, theoretically based approach to therapy that builds on the normal communicative and learning processes of children (Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002; O'Connor & Schaefer, 1983). Through play, therapists may help children learn more adaptive behaviors when there are emotional or social skills deficits (Pedro-Carroll & Reddy, 2005). The positive relationship that develops between therapist and child during play therapy sessions can provide a corrective emotional experience necessary for healing (Moustakas, 1997)."
Check out our Facebook LIVE! Video with Celeste Inman, MEd, LPC-S, RPT-S
Q&A with Celeste: The most frequently asked questions, answered!
What Happens in the Sessions? Do you just play?
"Well, the majority of the time, YES! Play is how children are able to express themselves. In the play therapy room, we have all kinds of manipulatives and things they can use to show us how they feel."
How Often Do Children Need to Go to Play Therapy?
"Initially we suggest weekly, just to get that momentum going and begin creating that relationship. Then as progress is made, we can change that up."
What Makes the Play Therapy Room different and special?
"In the Play Therapy Room, children, and sometimes even teens and adults, can choose from a variety of objects to use to actually express themselves and their feelings. It's not what you might picture as a traditional therapy office!"
Real-Parent Experience with Play Therapy:
My son was about three when he began struggling with behavior challenges at daycare. This was always a place of joy for him where he could socialize, learn, and grow; which is why when his behavior began to change, I took notice. He was more irritable (more than a typical three-nager), and in the throws of his anger would throw objects or hit others, even his beloved Lovie. I had an idea of what might be affecting him; there were some family dynamics that had recently emerged at home. I took notice. I had awareness. And I had no idea what to actually do about it. I did what any mom-of-today would do: I consulted Dr. Internet and a simple search for "therapy + small child," popped up: PLAY THERAPY.
I'll say it. I was skeptical. How was 30 minutes of my son playing Knights & Swords with a total stranger going to emotionally support him? Moreover, how was I going to trust my child's mental health to someone who used something called "sand tray." What IS a sand tray?! I knew my little guy needed support so I vowed to learn. I asked questions and even saw the Play Therapy Room before beginning his sessions. While Tele-Play is available (ugh, COVID), Celeste prefers the richness of the in-person interaction and cited logistical challenges to Tele-Play: "I mean, if the little one runs out of the room or goes 'off the screen' it's hard for me to offer redirection and practice or model that limit-setting." I agree with Celeste that at least for my kiddo, in-person has suited him best.
So far, so good. My son loves going to Play Therapy and even waves to the building on our way to and fro! He feels a connection with his Play Therapist that, as a parent, I'm so thankful for. I can't speak to his experience as a client, but for me as a parent? Play Therapy provides a safe, medication-free option for me to support the wellness of my child. We're all in.