Play Therapy at Different Ages & Stages
Play Therapy can vary greatly based on the interests, age, strengths and presenting problem.
What can you or your child expect to experience in play therapy at different ages and stages?
- Initial sessions are focused on rapport building, creating a safe space where children and adults alike feel comfortable and want to return to again.
- Play therapy for pre-school age children often focuses on pretend play. This can occur with a doll house, sand tray, floor play or a combination or those activities. Child-Centered play therapy is utilized to help children play out experiences, feelings and thoughts. Parents are often encouraged to join sessions to learn how to be the change agents and to carry-over "special play time" at home.
- Play therapy for school-age children may include specialized art activities and therapeutic games geared toward helping children identify and verbalize their feelings, or find fun ways to express anger while increasing self-regulation and coping.
- Play therapy for teenagers may focus more on higher level activities such as expressive activities such as lyric/song analysis or collaging. It can include therapeutic games such as feelings Jenga or hands-on symbolic/interpretive work with sand trays.
- Play therapy for adults includes examples such as sand trays, painting, grief book illustration or positive affirmation activities.
- Family play therapy may include sibling sessions, parent-child sessions or activities that involve the entire family, giving members the opportunity to communicate with each other in a safe place as they work through challenges.
According to research, "Although everyone benefits, play therapy is especially appropriate for children ages 3 through 12 years old (Carmichael, 2006; Gil, 1991; Landreth, 2002; Schaefer, 1993). Teenagers and adults have also benefited from play techniques and recreational processes. To that end, use of play therapy with adults within mental health, agency, and other healthcare contexts is increasing (Pedro-Carroll & Reddy, 2005; Schaefer, 2003). In recent years, play therapy interventions have also been applied to infants and toddlers (Schaefer et. al., 2008)." (Association for Play Therapy, www.a4pt.org/?page=PTMakesADifference, 2016)