What is play therapy?

Emotional wellbeing is fundamental to a child’s healthy development. If a child’s emotional development has been disrupted, for whatever reason and they don’t get the help they need at the right time, it can have a big impact on their emotional health and lives now and in the future.

Play therapy is to children, what counselling is to adults. Play is the language of children and whereas adults may be able to talk through their problems and feelings, play therapy offers children the opportunity to explore the feelings that are causing them upset and disruption.

Play is a child’s natural medium for self-expression and is essential for development. By using creative materials and through “playing”, one to one play therapy sessions offer children an opportunity to express and process the feelings that are causing them difficulties and impacting on their behaviour. This is all done in the safe and confidential space of the play room with the support and relationship of a trained therapist.

Play Therapy uses a variety of play and creative arts techniques to alleviate chronic, mild and moderate psychological and emotional conditions in children that are causing behavioural problems and/or preventing children from realising their potential.

In research carried out by the Children’s Society in 2008, they found that 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

 Our play therapy approach

At Toucan for Children we work in an integrative, holistic way, using a non-directive approach. Essentially the child leads their own therapeutic journey and most of what is learned during this process is not cognitive learning but a developing experiential and intuitive learning about self.

Play Therapy sessions are subject to therapeutic confidentiality. However if a child makes a disclosure or indicates that they are not safe, we would initiate our child protection procedures.

In the process of play therapy the following eight principles facilitate change in children:

  • Children learn to respect themselves
  • Children learn that their feelings are acceptable
  • Children learn to express their feelings responsibly
  • Children learn to assume responsibility for themselves
  • Children learn to be creative and resourceful in confronting problems
  • Children learn self-control and self-direction
  • Children gradually learn, at a feelings level, to accept themselves
  • Children learn to make choices and to be responsible for their choices

(Garry Landreth)