How it Works: The Miracle of Play Therapy
It constantly amazes us that when children enter the play therapy studio, as if by some magic, they seem to play exactly what they need to resolve the biggest problems in their lives. How do they do it?
Children readily use the tools available to them in the play studio to tell stories about their experiences. The toys and materials used in play therapy are intentionally chosen because they have a projective quality. This means that children can use the old fashioned toys and real objects for many different purposes as they go into the creative story telling mode that happens when children are playing “make believe”. Suddenly a plain old bowl can be used several different ways in the same session: it holds water for pouring in the sand, it could be a hat, a drum, a baby doll’s bed, and on it goes. Children will stretch the limits of what can be done with simple play things to share their important stories.
The pretend stories take on aspects from the child’s life. Parents and carers will often say that they have tried many things already to help their child, but in some areas the child is just “stuck” or still struggling. In play therapy, children naturally gravitate toward resolving conflicts and problems they are struggling with in the real world. Kids repeatedly play out the same story and think about it from different perspectives, coming up with creative new solutions they may be too stressed to think of in their everyday lives. Children re-live and re-explore aspects of their lives that may be too difficult to talk about. When they are pretending, children can conquer their fears, rescue someone in distress, and be the hero of their own stories. Children can go back in time and write their own happy endings, and along the way, they build confidence and skills to get along better in life.
What your Child will find useful in the Play Studio
Toys and materials have been carefully selected to help with your child’s social, emotional, and cognitive brain development.
Toys fall under five categories and promote different developmental needs:
Real Life Toys: Promote understanding of the real world and social interactions
– Doll house and family
– Doctor kit
– Play money
– Play kitchen
Toys for Creativity: Promote self control, self awareness, and self confidence
– Glue, Tape, Scissors
– Building blocks
– Dress up costumes
Sensory Toys: Promote brain development and emotional regulation
– Bean bag chair
– Sand and water
Aggressive Toys: Promote impulse control and stress management
– Alligator puppet
– Toy soldiers
– Play sword
– Soft foam ball
Nurturing Toys: Promote expression of softer feelings, empathy, and caring behavior
– Baby doll
– Play tea set
– Farm animals
– Soft blanket
What does the Play Therapist do and say?
Georgie Wisen-Vincent, LMFT, RPT, is a Play Therapist who is specially trained to tune in to the ways children play to develop new ways of thinking. She will pay close attention to what your child is working on in the play studio and use caring, focusing, and reflecting skills to help find meaningful solutions. Georgie will let your child take the lead in choosing toys and activities, knowing that this enables children to prioritize what needs to be addressed first. As your child begins to make up games and stories, Georgie will follow along, sometimes playing along, listening, or giving feedback. Children are usually pleasantly surprised that Georgie is so interested and willing to play! Her enthusiasm and attention helps children move along in their problem-laden stories to look at possible choices and better solutions. She is engaging your child in discovering more hopeful perspectives and building adaptive skills that will begin to transfer into real life situations.
How do those new abilities transfer from play therapy to real life situations?
Sure, your child is going to learn a lot in those play sessions, but how does all that great insight and new problem-solving ability get to where it really matters? You would like to see your child getting along better at home, school, or in other settings, and just feeling better in general.
Taking on new perspectives and looking at problems from many angles in play therapy helps children make new connections that apply wherever they are. They start to feel more confident in themselves, trusting their own ability to handle big feelings and stressful situations. For the first time, they have been able to face their most painful or scary experiences and realize they made it through. They become independent thinkers who can ask adults for help when they really need it. Before play therapy, their emotions tended to escalate quickly, but now they can calm, soothe, and keep their logic when upset. Kids develop new language for their thoughts and concerns and their mature verbal ability brings them closer and more connected to family and friends. They focus and try harder than before, not giving up so easily, because now they know they can handle just about anything!