Play is the child’s natural medium of self-expression. It is an opportunity which is given to the child to ‘play out’ his feelings and problems.
“Play therapy is based on the fact that play is the child’s natural medium of self-expression. It is an opportunity which is given to the child to ‘play out’ his feelings and problems just as, in certain types of adult therapy, an individual ‘talks out’ his difficulty.”
- Virginia Axline, 1947.
It is a fundamental need for all of us to heard. To be listened to. To be understood. However, it is not always the case that we feel we have this need fulfilled. Even as adults we often feel that we have failed to get our message across to those who are important in our lives.
For children it is even more important to be listened to as they are reliant on those around them to survive.
For basic needs children have a basic vocabulary, e.g., babies cry when they need attention. They communicate emotional distress through behaviour. This is also true for older children and sometimes this behaviour can become problematic or disruptive to the child’s wellbeing, and to the wellbeing of those close to the child.
A lot of child maladaptive behaviour stems from their difficulties understanding or processing events around them. The world is a confusing place for children and they need a way to learn how it works. This is the function of play. Through play children test ideas about how the world works and seek to understand their place in the events around them. Play is the language of the child and toys are the words.
A child centered play therapist is trained to ‘listen’ to the child’s play, to truly ‘be’ with the child in his or her world.
More importantly, a child centered play therapist provides a trusting environment so that the child feels completely safe to express his/her thoughts and fears to the therapist and creates confidence in the child they are being heard. This sense of safety and thrust is essential to the process of emotional growth and therapeutic change.