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Play Therapy/Child and Adolescent Counseling

Play therapy, with its origins in the early 20th century, is a dynamic approach to psychotherapy that is specifically designed for children and is based on the notion that a child’s most natural form of self- expression is through play. For many children, it provides an open and attractive channel of communication both with themselves and the clinician. The play therapist focuses on hearing and seeing the messages found in a child’s play and on using and responding to those messages to facilitate the emergence and growth of a healthier child. The therapist offers a broad assortment of age appropriate toys, games, dolls, puppets, art supplies, and an atmosphere conducive to play. Children are able to play about their concerns through symbolic communications that are often more available and less frightening than words. Many older children and adolescents continue to use and enjoy the games and art materials.

When working with children and adolescents, I always meet with parents first to determine specific concerns, see the child for two consecutive sessions, and then see the parents again for initial feedback. At that point we will determine together how we are going to proceed. Parent consultation is critical to a successful outcome and typically I will follow the same pattern of two sessions with the child followed by feedback with parents. This format holds true even as children become older and move more toward using words instead of symbols.

Unless the child has a specific developmental challenge such as needing to work on developing age appropriate play skills, I use a non-directed approach. This means that the child is the director of the session and gets to choose how he or she will spend our time together. As children move through school and into adolescence, there is more focus on organizational and social skills, decision- making, and personal responsibility.