Play therapists aim to create a safe and secure environment (therapy room), which is both physically and emotionally safe, in order to encourage children to explore and express themselves in any way they may choose with the help of toys and play.
Over many months of work, hopefully a child’s play will progress and children may then be able to express their feelings with regards to their situations, which may include anger, sadness and guilt. For lots of foster children, the play therapy may enable them to connect with their own histories, expressing their innermost thoughts without the use of words and use ‘pretend’ to address the reality of what it may feel like to be them.
Using play therapy mirrors how children naturally learn through play. Play is linked with creativity, problem solving, language , learning and the development of social roles. Play is essential for children learning to use their imagination, adapting and developing their fine motor skills, learning social skills, negotiating and compromising. Trust develops with play and then empathy can develop.
Play therapists utilize play and play equipment to build a therapeutic relationship with a child in which they can explore the child’s internal model of the world and create space in which the child can safely explore, with or without words. Through play, strengths are promoted, fears addressed and positive change can be rehearsed. Toys, trays of sand, painting, drawing, drama and anything that children would normally play can be used.
Play Therapy and Foster Carers
As well as working with children, play therapists will work with foster carers and parents to help them understand the needs of the child. Play therapists often work with the child and foster carers together, promoting the bonds of attachment.
So often learned mistrust and anxiety underpin a traumatised child behaviour. Helping the foster carer understand, recognise and respond appropriately to the child’s expressions of need, leads to better relations within the foster home.
Play therapy is not the whole solution, but its a dynamic process which enters the child’s inner world, sharing emotional ups and downs of the child’s life journey.
For more information please go to The UK Society for Play and Creative Arts Therapies