5 Examples of Play Therapy

Play therapy, or PT is a form of psychotherapy that uses play as a way for the treatment seeker to grow and overcome personal, mental difficulties. As simply yet clearly represented by Susan Scheftel PH.D of Psychology Today, “Play can be a superb vehicle for expressing thoughts and feelings that are hard to directly put into words.”

The conditions treated by PT specifically are most often behavioral/psychological issues and developmental delay issues. Another surprising fact to some – although most commonly used in children, PT is also used at times with teens and adults as well. Want to know more about this fun-based therapy method? Here are five examples of how it can work in real life.

Developmental Delays, Speech

Alice is a 10 year old little girl who has a long history of some specific developmental delays. At this point in her life, she has overcome most of these but has been left with a delayed ability for her age group in the important area of speech. It is also found that all other areas of intervention are slow in gain versus PT methods.

Alice’s PT sessions consist mainly of word games and other fun tasks involving grammar, speech, and verbal expression. In one game, Alice is rewarded with golden tokens for being able to say the words associated with pictures held up by the therapist. In another game, she must give verbal directives in order to control a functional model train set. In the end, fun is the concept that prods her past her difficulties.

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Anxiety, PTSD

Quincy is a 7 year old boy who was unfortunate enough to witness a terribly violent crime. Present at a convenience store during a robbery, he witnessed a quick yet brutal scene of the worst of humanity. Totally shutdown and withdrawn as a result, this previously healthy child only shows true improvement via PT approaches.

All in the name of re-socializing him to normal situations and life in general, an extended PT regimen is employed. One day, he plays peek-a-boo games and helps guide the actions of a cast of puppets. Another day he works on issues of public anxiety with a specific, therapeutic video games made to make light of and humor from public situations and events. Each differing session works him closer to the goal of normalcy.

Sexual Assault Therapy

Gina is our third, hypothetical representative of real-life PT at work. This 5 year old girl was the victim of a horrific sexual assault. As she tries to normalize and grow beyond this event, PT offers her some of the only tools she has at this point – those of play.

Her grief is made normal by her seeing and acting out similar grief in puppets and doll-play. She is directed to use crayons and markers to draw her thoughts of concern so that the therapist and parents may understand further. Other sessions even see her make her own decision as to what PT activity she would like to engage in. She often quite lovingly chooses coloring and drawing expression activities when this happens.

Developmental Delays, Auditory, Writing

Al is a middle-aged gentleman who has lived a life struggling with developmental delays and autism that started in early childhood. Life circumstances have finally got him into a therapy approach that can finally help him now. As an older, yet new participant, his therapist engages him in a cooperative board game that teaches trust and teamwork.

With trust and some bonds established, his therapist can then get into other areas of concern. For other trust issues, Al plays the “fall backwards and catch me” game with his therapist and some of her associates. Later, they work with his insecurities with some very reaffirming, goal-based sandbox building games. After some repetition, Al shows marked progress in these targeted areas of focus.

Abuse Victim

Nadine is an elderly woman who suffered some nasty elderly abuse recently. As a result of this abuse and her previous condition, her family has found play therapy to be one of the only viable methods of help. Her love for word games comes into play with her therapist when they go head-to-head at Scrabble. Once some rapport is established, targeted play activities commence. These include trivia games, show-and-tell games, and charades as part of a regimen meant to re-establish trust, self-confidence, and a love for life rekindled.

PT methods are quite beneficially diverse, offering any number of ways to administer therapy through play. These five examples of its use give some extra insight into how it works as well as play methods that may be used in the process. For more, extensive information on the world of play therapy, the official association dedicated to the practice can be found by visiting http://www.a4pt.org/.