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What is Child Centered Play Therapy?

by Shivonne Cammell

Posted on January 15, 2016 at 09.30am

Child Centered Play Therapy can be an effective and appropriate way to help children and works for children as counselling or psychotherapy does for adults. Child Centered Play Therapy helps children aged 2-12 years work through emotional, psychosocial and behavioural difficulties and helps address family problems.

In Child Centered Play Therapy, a relationship develops between the child and the therapist, where the therapist enters the child’s world, following the child’s lead, to develop a safe place and a relationship of trust, empathy and acceptance. Within this context, children are then free to express feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviours through play. Toys are used like words and become the child’s natural language. Children are encouraged to make choices, to explore possibilities and to develop resilience and self actualisation, with a skillful therapist trained to respond therapeutically. The therapist also consults with the family, school and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach is taken to supporting the child’s needs.

Who is Play Therapy for:

For children 2 – 12 years old experiencing psychosocial, emotional, behavioural &/or developmental difficulties such as:
Child abuse & neglect
Grief & loss
Bonding & Attachment issues
Foster, adoption & identity issues
Prenatal & Birth Trauma
Adjusting to family changes such as separation and divorce
Making friends
Excessive anger, fear, sadness, worry & shyness
Aggression & acting out
School difficulties
Social adjustment issues
Sleeping and eating difficulties
Self concept & self esteem
Autism (in cases other than severe autism)
Chronic illness / hospitalization
Physical symptoms without medical cause
Selective Mutism
Near Death Experiences
Benefits of Play Therapy:

Play Therapy can work with very young children – as young as 2 years of age, and is effective with nonverbal and selectively mute children. Few other therapeutic modalities are effective with this cohort of children.

Play Therapy allows children a safe environment in which to learn about themselves and the world. In Play Therapy, children develop a more positive self-concept, assume greater responsibility, and become more self directing, self accepting and self reliant. They are provided opportunities to engage in self determined decision making, to experience a feeling of control over their environment, to develop coping skills, an internal source of evaluation and become more trusting of self. Play Therapy provides a safe and therapeutic environment for children to explore and achieve their full potential, whilst working through the issues that may have hindered their development so far.

Evidence based literature supports the effectiveness of play therapy, with research replicated with different cultural groups and demographics.

Friedrich Frobel

"... play is the highest development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child's soul...children's play is not mere sport. It is full of meaning and import."

(Frobel, The Education of Man, 1903, p.22)

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