The different uses of play to alleviate
Most of us understand that play is good
for us – that it has a therapeutic value. It helps children of all ages, gender
and cultures to learn, communicate and develop their personalities.
Neuroscience research shows that more
brain centres light up in response to metaphor than any other form of human
communication forming new neural pathways. (Levin, F 1997 and Modell, A.H
1997). Symbolic/fantasy play with its use of metaphors provides new experiences
that develops the brain/mind.
Similarly creative arts therapies help
in the same way. They are also used to unlock children's potential and make
sense of their life experiences. The child can express their feelings without
having to use words.
Play & Play Work - All children
should be encouraged to play frequently and spontaneously purely for their enjoyment
with no other objective. Play work may also be used in nurseries, play schemes
or primary schools to help children to learn or as in a play scheme to provide
a safe environment for a child when the parent and/or carer/s are absent. As a
bonus there will be a therapeutic or child development benefit. Play Workers are not Play Therapists.
Therapeutic Play improves the emotional
well-being/emotional literacy of the child. It may be used to alleviate a mild,
one off emotional, behaviour or psychological problem that is preventing the
child from functioning normally. Therapeutic play is often used to prevent a
minor problem becoming worse. Practitioners of therapeutic play may be other professionals such as
teaching staff, nurses, social workers, care workers etc. who have received
adequate training, such as a Certificate in Therapeutic Play Skills accredited
by Play Therapy UK. They also need to receive regular clinical
supervision and use clinical governance
procedures to manage the quality of their work.
Filial Play uses techniques such as
baby massage as well as play to assist infants, normally under the age of 3, in
their mental and emotional development which for some reason is impaired. In
some cases the therapist may work with the parent and/or carer/s as well
as with the child. Its objective is to prevent negative infant experiences
becoming deeper seated emotional problems later in life. Therapy may extend
beyond the age of 3 and then may become family therapy. Therapeutic play should
be an important part of family therapy. PTUK encourages parents to provide
quality time for their children using play but does not approve of parents
using therapeutic methods with their own or relatives' children.
Play Therapy uses a variety of play and
creative arts methods - the Play Therapy Tool Kit - to address chronic, mild
and moderate psychological and emotional conditions in children that are
causing behavioural problems. The Play Therapist forms a short to medium term
therapeutic relationship and often works with the child’s peers, siblings,
family, school etc. as well. A Play Therapist is required to have successfully
completed a post-graduate Diploma level course such as one accredited by Play
Therapy UK as well as receiving regular clinical
supervision and using clinical
governance procedures to manage the quality of their work.
Child psychotherapy, clinical
psychology and psychiatry address more severe mental health and personality
problems. Practitioners in these fields may use therapeutic play in addition to
talking therapies and possibly, in the case of psychiatry, medication. Support may be provided by a Play Therapist
working in a multi-agency team.