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Play therapy is the therapy of choice when working with young children. This type of therapy allows children to express themselves through a therapeutic type of play since many children do not yet have the vocabulary to fully express their emotions and frustrations. A skilled play therapist will look for certain themes and signs that a child exhibits through play to understand what he or she may be trying to communicate. Through play, the therapist and child begin to form a trusting and safe relationship so that the child feels comfortable to be him or herself and can confide in the therapist about what may be occurring. Through play therapy, a child and therapist work on solving problems, role playing difficult social situations, and practice emotion regulation.
Play therapy is geared towards children ages 2-12 although there may be some exceptions of older children. Play therapy is a trusted and researched therapy used for many years. It is utilized for children who are going through an adjustment such as a parent’s divorce, a death, a change in school or home location, as well as in children who have anxiety and ADHD. Through play therapy, your child will start thinking of their own solutions to problems, will want to become more independent, and will have processed difficulties that they are going through. Your child will be able to express their emotions in a healthy manner as well as learn coping skills when they start to feel frustrated and upset. Play therapy is also used to help children become more empathetic and respectful towards their peers and authority figures. Play therapy is done once a week and takes an average of about fifteen to twenty sessions. Parents may also be asked to participate in the play therapy towards the end of the sessions so that they can be aware of what skills their child is learning and incorporate them at home. Your play therapist can also support your child in school by speaking to their school counselor and teacher as well as advocate for your child in an IEP meeting.
Sand Tray Therapy, also known as Sandplay Therapy, is a form our play therapy that utilizes a sandbox, toy figures, and sometimes water, to create scenes of miniature worlds that reflect the person’s inner thoughts, struggles, and concerns. This nonverbal therapeutic intervention is practices alongside with talk therapy using the tools of the sandbox and figures to facilitate communication. Research has shown that sand tray therapy can help increase emotional expression while also reducing psychological distress in many populations.
Below is an explainer video from the Sandplay Therapists of America on the use of symbolic language in this modality of therapy for people of all ages.
Contact Jessica Payne, LMSW at (240)252-3349 Ext. 815 to discuss how Play or Sand Tray Therapy can help your child.
If you are interested in talking with someone about opportunities for Sand Tray therapy as an adult, call Dr. Elizabeth Carr, Psy.D. (Ext. 801) to discuss these services.
Would you like to learn more about Play and Sand Tray Therapy? Here are some articles for more details.
Here is a description of Sand Tray Therapy from Psychology Today.