Play Therapy - Exploration of Real Life Experiences
Play Therapy Toys – Exploration of Real Life Experiences
Play therapy is a therapeutic modality used by many professionals around the world to help children cope with and work through traumatic or painful situations they have encountered in their lives. Play therapy has been found to be especially useful for children as it allows them to do something that they would usually do - play - in a safe environment where they can be monitored by a professional therapist. In circumstances where a child does not feel comfortable or safe discussing their feelings or the things that have happened to them, play is an effective way for counselors to see what is going on in a child’s head and help them to find solutions to their problems, or find ways to discuss their experiences.
Play Tells Us About Real Life
An example of a play therapy session that developed into a reflection of real life was published by the American Counseling Association, in an article titled Creative Metaphors of Life Experiences Seen in Play Therapy. The article related the following story;
David is a 9-year-old boy referred for therapy after his grades declined in school, and he was aggressive toward his peers. David’s parents were recently divorced, and his father remarried shortly thereafter. David’s father moved out of state, and his parents argued frequently about visitation. David had difficulty verbalizing his emotions, so he began using the sand tray as his mode of expression. During his third session, he placed army men in the sand with a body of water dividing the two sides. Each side fired at the other until all of the army men were “dead.” David provided few responses during the battles, except to say, “He’s dead.” David repeated this theme for several weeks. During his sixth session, he elaborated further. As he separated the opposing sides, he informed his therapist, “This is the war between the states.” He then stated that the “generals” from the opposing sides “are going to try to work it out.” David later said that the generals could not agree, and each side destroyed the other. David repeated the theme for several additional sessions. The generals continued to be unable to work it out. However, two soldiers were left standing (one on each side). David commented, “These two soldiers are going to try to rebuild the fort.” David’s sand play demonstrates the conflict that existed between his parents. They had attempted to reconcile several times before making the decision to divorce. As David gained ego strength throughout therapy, he became more comfortable with dialogue. His resilience became more apparent as the two soldiers attempted to rebuild the fort.
Vistas Online - American Counseling Association. (n.d.). (Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/resources/library/vistas/vistas05/Vistas05.art12.pdf)
While David’s initial sessions did not immediately give voice to his feelings about his experiences, he was able to find his voice through repeated play therapy sessions, which in turn allowed his therapist to help him through a difficult situation in his life.
Play Therapy Offers a Safe Space
Play therapy allows children the opportunity to project their feelings onto toys, which helps them to distance themselves from difficult emotions and situations which may be too painful to discuss. When issues such as abuse, neglect, or other trauma are dealt with in a "pretend world" it allows a child to play out the scenario while still feeling safe and protected from having to relive all the emotions associated with the trauma. Additionally, studies show that by acting out a situation which may be frightening and allowing a child to change or reverse the original outcome, children can work toward inner resolutions which enable them to better cope and respond to the initial problem. An effective play therapist can identify emotions through a child’s play and in turn help the child recognize those same emotions within themselves. Ultimately, play therapy seeks to help children accept themselves and find internal strengths to draw on in times of stress, trauma, or difficulty, thus helping them to find solutions within themselves.
Safari LTD and Play Therapy Toys
At Safari LTD we know that children love to play, and we understand that kids can explore and engage with the world around them through play. We are proud to partner with Licensed Social Workers and therapists who use play therapy to help children resolve personal challenges in their lives through play. One of the specific play therapy modalities that we love to help with through our toys is sand tray therapy as mentioned above in David’s experience. Susan Falck, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapy Supervisor says of our figures, “Kids use the toys and figures to create a world or story in the sand tray. The wide variety of Toys That Teach: animals, dragons, dinosaur figures, and fantasy figures, are ideal for Play Therapy.” They help the children “express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.” We are honored that our toys are making an impact in children’s lives and it is our goal to continue to help those who are helping children.