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What is Play Therapy?
While adults make sense of their world through thinking and talking through things with others, children make sense of the world through play. This is due, in part, to the fact that their brains have not yet developed the neural networking responsible for connecting their lower brain centers (brain stem and limbic system) with the more advanced parts of the brain responsible for cognitive processing, decision making, and abstract thinking (frontal cortex). “Children are unable to understand and talk about their feelings the way adults do and this makes adult therapies inappropriate in meeting children’s needs” (Byron Norton, 1998).
Play, being the natural way children make sense of the world, can become a catalyst for empowerment, greater success at school, stronger peer relationships and a stronger sense of self-worth when facilitated by a trained play therapist.
How does it work?
Parents often ask me, "How do you get my child to work through what's going on for them? Do you talk about what's going on?"
The answer is: I don't have to talk them into or get them to talk about anything; children naturally recreate what they see, feel, and experience through play. By staying in the moment with them, the play becomes a chance to recreate what feels most challenging to them, and they learn how to overcome obstacles in an embodied, regulated way.
Together, your child and I will practice new tools and find new choices to overcome and make sense of the struggle (fear, anger, frustration, sadness, loss, etc.). Processing the struggle leads to healing and symptom reduction (i.e. acting out and aggressive behaviors, withdrawal, lack of concentration/focus, acting younger than age, etc.).
The experience is not always fun. It is often hard work: learning new ways of connecting to one's self, practicing new tools, and ultimately, re-wiring the brain for a more integrated, regulated nervous system. Ultimately, the safe, reliable, relationship between child and therapist is the catalyst for expressing and integrating big emotions and stressors, like fear, anxiety, sadness, overwhelm, anger, loss, etc.
Whatever the challenge, Synergetic Play Therapy offers children a place to "play" through their challenges and find that they are capable, competent, whole people, able to be themselves in the world.
What does a session look like?
Generally, each session consists of 45-minutes of Play Therapy with the child once a week for about 15 weeks.
Each session is followed by a 10-15 minute check-in with parents, either in person or by phone. During this time we will discuss what your child worked on in his/her session and how things are going at home and school. I will provide tools and strategies for supporting your child’s process and helping him be his very best self. I welcome parents’ questions and celebrate parental involvement in the therapeutic process. I strive to foster a collaborative approach to your child’s health and well-being throughout this process.
Contact Heal Through Play in Louisville, Colorado, to work with play therapy counselors with 15 years of experience working with children and parents.