Play therapy and art therapy are relatable to children and young adults—especially those with chronic conditions. In a world full of requirements, rules, and stress, these forms of therapy offer a break from everyday expectations.
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What is play therapy?
“Play therapy is a technique that utilizes children's natural language to help process trauma. This is tremendously helpful as children often do not have the verbal skills to express their thoughts and feelings,” says Amber Johnson, LCPC, RPT-S, a therapist at Heartland Play Therapy Institute in Overland Park, Kan.
Are there different types of play therapy?
Non-directive play therapy utilizes a therapist to track an activity that helps children put words to the themes they communicate through play. With directive play therapy, the therapist develops a plan to help children achieve specific goals and overcome fears or other limitations.
How does it help children overcome anxiety?
Play therapy helps stressed children learn to cope with their diagnosis and develop creative ways to manage the emotions and anxiety related to their feelings about having a disorder. These are beneficial skills for chronically ill children as the hurdles of life increase with age.
Can therapy help kids who have fears related to the medical side of their diagnosis?
In certain instances, a therapist may combine medical equipment with toys to help alleviate fears associated with infusion treatment. When children feel comfortable with sharing their feelings, parents and caregivers can fine-tune the child’s care plan by introducing changes that better fit the child’s expectations.
What else should I know?
Consider the following if you’re interested in play therapy to help your child.
- Meet the therapist first to explain concerns and ensure they are a good match
- Parental or caretaker involvement is very important to a successful outcome
- Always respect your child’s privacy and boundaries
- Don’t expect immediate results—therapy is a gradual process
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