Adults have the cognitive ability to think abstractly, use language and talk with others about their problems. Children, however, have not developed these abilities yet. Instead, children use play as the medium for the expression of their feelings, thoughts, choices, and identity.

Dean Wisdom is a Registered Play Therapist. Play Therapy is a method of counseling we use with children ages 2-10 (developmentally) to help them with the problems they experience in their lives.

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What is Play Therapy?

Toys in the playroom are carefully selected to facilitate children’s expression of their emotions through play.  Inside the play therapy room are toys that promote creative expression, release of aggression, nurturing, mastery/competence, role-play, and self-calming. The play therapy room is, therefore, an emotional place for children – not just a room full of toys.  In therapeutic play sessions just as the toys are specially selected so the child specially selects and plays with toys in ways that facilitate their self-expression.  As a play therapist I interact with the child during their session using play therapy skills and techniques that help children identify their feelings, develop their awareness of choice, gain self-control by attending to appropriate limits in the playroom, enhance their self-esteem, take responsibility for things they can do, and most importantly play out the emotions and experience that brought them to therapy.

Benefits of Play Therapy

Play therapy has been shown to be an effective therapeutic approach to helping children across age, gender, populations and settings as well as all diagnostic categories except the completely autistic and out-of-contact schizophrenic (Landreth, 2002).  Play therapy has been shown to have positive effects on children’s problems including disruptive behaviors, anxiety, trauma, multicultural issues, identified disability or medical condition, ADHD, language skills, moral reasoning, social behavior, homelessness, depression, and self-concept (Baggerly, Ray, Bratton, 2010).

Why is seeing a Registered Play Therapist important?

You want the most qualified and well-trained therapist for your child.  A Registered Play Therapist is a licensed professional counselor who has taken specialized training, supervision, and clinical experience with children and been approved by standards of the Association for Play Therapy as a Registered Play Therapist (RPT).  The Association for Play Therapy is a national professional society formed in 1982 to advance the play therapy modality and the knowledge and expertise of those mental health professionals engaged in play therapy practice, instruction, and supervision.  Advanced education requirements include an additional 150 hours of play therapy specific instruction from an institution of higher learning or an approved provider.  Specialized clinical experience and supervision includes an additional 500 hours of play therapy specific client experience with concurrent 50 hours of supervision.  This advanced training and client experience provides a unique exposure and learning experience for therapists who specialize in counseling children and their parents.

What is the Parent’s Role in their Child’s Therapy?

Parents are encouraged to support their child’s experience in play therapy by honoring their child’s confidentiality.  Children need to know that the special playtime they have with “Mr. Dean” is just for them and that their privacy will be respected.  Limits to confidentiality are clearly explained to parents in the intake process.  Parents are supported themselves in the process by attending monthly parent consult sessions with Dean to discuss the progress of their child’s therapy, express concerns, and work on parenting solutions.  Parents are also strengthened in their relationship with their child by attending the 10-week CPRT Group (Child-Parent-Relationship Therapy) and learn basic skills of playing therapeutically with their child once per week for 30 minutes.  See information about CPRT Groups.

For more information on play therapy, please visit The Association for Play Therapy.

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