Play Therapy is increasingly the recognized method for working with children ages 3-12. Play is the language children use to express themselves. A trained play therapist can understand the metaphors used in the child's play to gain understanding of the problem areas, awareness of resources and recognize the stages of healing. Only trained play therapists have the experience and skills to facilitate a child's ability to continue moving forward during the healing process, when the child becomes "stuck" in their play, often related to anxiety or trauma. Through the therapeutic relationship with the play therapist, an environment is established that feels safe and supportive for the child to work through problems, express themselves, learn to self-regulate their emotions and heal without feeling overwhelmed or re-traumatized.
Play therapy is effective for resolving behavior problems at home and school, anxiety, depression, ADHD, trauma, loss and adjustment to family stressors and life transitions. Through play therapy the child is able to express themselves, learn adaptive skills, gain self-control and mastery, increase self-esteem and heal from trauma and loss. Trauma is sensory based in that traumatic memories are encoded in both the body as well as the brain. The use of play therapy addresses the sensory component of trauma that can not be achieved through traditional talk therapy alone.
Sand Tray Therapy with Children
Sand tray therapy is a specialized modality that uses sand and selected "miniatures, " objects which provide the medium for emotional expression and communicating one's experience. The use of sand has a kinesthetic quality that addresses the sensory component of trauma, the deeper emotional experience that is retained in the body itself. For children, sand tray provides a safe, natural way for self-expression and a means of telling "their story." With the use of both dry and wet sand trays, children are able to go deeper into their unconscious thoughts and feelings, which leads to a healing at both the conscious and unconscious root of problems and symptoms. Sand tray like play therapy, also acts as a medium for problem-solving and development of adaptive skills, enhanced confidence and feelings of empowerment.
Play Therapy and EMDR
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) uses bilateral stimulation techniques to help "unlock stuck material" thereby allowing the mind and body to process the traumatic event. Play Therapy techniques combined with EMDR can be effective in working with children with trauma, anxiety and phobias.