Therapy for children looks a lot different than therapy for adults. It’s all about the difference between a child’s mentality and an adult’s. For the most part, adults are rational, understand and accept responsibility for their behaviour, and have learned much from their own life experiences. For the most part, a child is emotional and curious; does not believe what was right yesterday may not be right today. Children express themselves through play!
A child’s mental life happens through emotional communication and play. Playing is the main activity for children. Through play, they learn to rehearse their social life, express themselves, and project their emotions and obscure thoughts. Logically, when we hope to help a child cope with mental (or behavioural, which is the same in the case of a child) issues, we should involve ourselves in their play. That is why play therapy is the optimum approach when providing therapy for children.
In non-directive play therapy, the therapist does not organize the child’s activities. In a playroom environment, saying, “YOU decide what to do” is optimal. The child starts playing as a matter of nature. In the case of a child experiencing a problem, they will demonstrate the circumstances that led to the problem or behavioural issue through play. The presence of the therapist-adult in the room confirms for the child that it is indeed okay for them “to decide what to do.” The therapist’s sincere attention means that their play might interest the adult. The therapist’s comments on the emotional component of the child’s play, means that the child is being understood by the adult. This is pivotal in the therapeutic process when it comes to children. That is how non-directive play therapy works: the child feels re-integrated through being understood by the therapist.
The focus of each session begins to change. During the first 3-4 sessions, a young client explores the playroom environment and ‘learns’ to decide what to do in this space without the adult’s direction. Eventually, they play more freely and carelessly and project their mind’s content into the play. Miraculously for the child, the therapist UNDERSTANDS their emotions and intentions and validates them. This allows children to be themselves, sets clear interpersonal boundaries, and shows sincere respect. Overall, the therapist creates an emotional environment in which the child learns to understand and express themselves more directly and communicate healthily.
If you are looking for a skilled child and youth therapist, The Family Enhancement Centre is the right place for you. For more information and help, please do not hesitate to call 905-799-2228 or sign up on the form; a service coordinator will reach you shortly.