Ever wondered what Play Therapy is? Intruiged by what they do? Anne from Peacock Play Therapy gives us a quick overview.
Play Therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to support children and young people (although adults can access it too) who may be experiencing social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. A Play Therapist is a highly skilled person who offers a variety of play and creative media (sand, clay, art, puppets etc) in a safe, trusting space to help the client work through their difficulties. Play Therapy can help with a wide variety of issues from low self esteem to bereavement and trauma. The way I usually describe Play Therapy is that it is like counselling, but instead of talking, the child can ‘play out’ their issues.
I qualified as a Play Therapist last year, so am at the beginning of my Play Therapy journey. To become a Play Therapist you will need to have experience of working with children and gain a post-graduate diploma in Play Therapy. The training is a rigorous (but fun!) process and takes about 3 years. It includes 200 clinical hours with clients and a lot of self-reflection.
A typical day for a mobile Play Therapist like me, who travels from school to school could include: getting to school early to set up the playroom (it can take up to 30 minutes to set out the play therapy toolkit!) and then taking some quiet time to prepare for the session. Sessions last approximately 45 minutes and are child-led – meaning that the child decides how they spend their time and the therapist follows their lead, reflecting and responding to their play. Once a session is over, it’s time to tidy up the space and replenish art supplies ready for the next client. If there’s enough time between sessions, the therapist will write sessions notes. At other points in the day a Play Therapist may have consultations with school staff or review meetings with parents to monitor how the therapy is going and to answer any concerns or questions.
Before starting work with a child, I always have an initial meeting with parents to get consent, answer any questions and, hopefully, allay any worries. I find if you can establish a good rapport with parent, this will help the whole process. I am good at quickly establishing a good rapport with the children I work with, which helps them relax and be able to trust me. Play Therapy gives them the time and space they need to work through their issues. They can do this at their own pace and in their own way. It can be quite magical watching the process! You will see a shy child who, over time, begins to talk in a louder voice (even getting to the point when they’re bossing me about!) and a child who hates mess get to the point where they will quite happily put paint all over their hands!
I love what I do as it’s the perfect excuse to buy toys, glitter etc for a start! It also allows me to get in contact with my inner child – which is healthy and fun. But the best thing is that I get to make a difference to a child and their family. I am passionate about mental health and believe early intervention is crucial, so being able to work with children is important work and incredibly rewarding.
I am just at the start of my Play Therapy journey and only launched Peacock Play Therapy this year, but I feel very hopeful that my practice will be successful, particularly as there is a real focus on child mental health at the moment as people are realising how important early intervention is. I also work in a primary school in a different role at the moment and I can see for myself that there is a huge need for therapeutic support for children and young people. It is an exciting time for me and I am looking forward to embracing the challenges that lie ahead!