The way to understand children: play therapy









Household, doctor, hide and seek… Games are an indication of how rich children’s imaginations are. Setting up, playing and taking many games further are journeys into the inner world of children.

The science of psychology reveals the value of these journeys by using play therapy. Because a child can tell his problem, which he cannot explain with words, by playing games. Play therapy, unlike adult psychotherapy, is not conducted by talking to each other, but by playing games.

How do fear and anxiety affect the child’s brain?

We spoke to clinical psychologist Büşra Sel Cengiz about the answers to the questions of what play therapy is, what it does and how it is applied.

How is play therapy done?

As with any therapy, the children’s stories are recorded before the session. This information given by the parents is a very valuable guide to the dialogue and play that psychologists will engage in with children. Cengiz talks about the beginning of therapy:

“Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can be applied to children aged 2-3 to 12 years. The difference between play therapy and adult psychotherapy is that it is a type of therapy conducted through games in a room with various toys and activity materials, not talking on the couches. Before the start of play therapy, a meeting with the parents takes place and the family history is requested. The following sessions take place in the playroom with the child. In addition to the play therapy sessions with the child, there are feedback sessions with the family.”

How many sessions does it take?

Büşra Sel emphasizes that it is impossible to predict how many play therapy sessions will last, but that you should not expect any change from the first session.

“The first play sessions are usually the ones where the child explores the playroom, begins to build relationships and alliances with the therapist, and no major therapeutic improvements are seen. After the relationship between the child and the therapist is established, the main play therapy begins.

“No one in the playroom tells the child what to do”

Both the comfort of the environment and the relationship with the therapist are very important for the child to feel comfortable. So much so that the healthy reflection and interpretation of emotions is successful because of this, says Büşra Sel:

“In play therapy, the most fundamental principle is that the therapist accepts the child as it is and builds a warm relationship with the child. In the playroom, no one tells the child what to do, he does what he wants as he wants. The playroom provides the child with a free, accepting, indulgent, and safe environment where there is no abuse, criticism, or adult interference. The child sets the path and the therapist follows it. Another starting point is that the therapist notices the emotions that the child expresses or brings to the fore in his play and reflects these emotions to the child so that the child gains insight into his behavior. In this way, the child not only reveals his feelings, but also begins to process and understand the emotions when the therapist accepts and reflects these feelings.”

Why can children express themselves through games?

Büşra Sel says, “Play is the most natural way of self-expression for children. She mentions that adults can express themselves verbally because they can use language proficiently. However, she says that verbal development in children is not yet at this level. It is the most effective opportunity for him to express his accumulated feelings such as anxiety, insecurity, fear and anger. Adults express themselves through talking, children through play. Play acts as a mental digestive device for children to understand and process their experiences.” he continues.

“It can be applied to many different psychological problems”

So, can any child get play therapy? Büşra Sel explains what kind of psychological problems play therapy should be as follows:

“Play therapy can be applied to many different psychological problems in children. Emotional problems such as various traumas (violence, abuse, loss…), depressive symptoms, anxiety and fear, anger and aggression, behavioral problems, low self-esteem, introversion, adjustment and adjustment problems (divorce, relocation, school…) and physical Play therapy is known to give good results in areas such as psychosomatic pains without cause, selective mutism (selective muteness), anxiety-related tics, sleeping and eating problems.”

“Play therapy does not benefit biological and physiological problems”

“Play therapy may not be necessary or appropriate for every child,” adds Cengiz. Biological and physiological issues are the main areas where this therapy does not benefit:

“Play therapy is mainly used for emotion-based problems because it exposes and appeals to emotions, but it is not useful for biological or physiological problems. For example, if the child has a developmental disability or delay, play therapy will not work in treating these developmental disabilities. In some cases, play therapy can be used for other emotional problems caused by an existing problem. For example, the effect of play therapy on increasing attention in a child with attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder will be minimal, but it will work to increase the self-confidence and self-esteem of the child whose self-esteem has been diminished by attention. shortage.”


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