Frequently Asked Questions
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is a largely form of child psychotherapy that is largely non-verbal and instead utilizes the natural language of children, which is play. Play is natural and an essential component for growth and development and so it is a great method to work with when trying to understand and communicate with children. Child-centred holistic non-directive Play Therapy operates within the assumption that given the right conditions, we will strive towards health and growth. Play Therapy empowers the child to help themselves. The child is not rushed and is free to explore what they wish to at their own pace making it a very safe and gentle approach.
The therapeutic relationship is key in Play Therapy. The Play Therapist provides a safe, judgment free space for the child to express their feelings, play out scenarios and form their sense of self and nurture their all important self-esteem. The experience in the play room is a very unique experience for the child that can leave a lasting impression long after treatment has finished having knock on benefits that go beyond the initial referral issue.
What’s the difference between Play Therapy and other play based learning or interventions?
The main difference is the therapeutic objective and intent. Play therapists are trained to create a therapeutic space and container for holding the children's intense emotional issues. Another key difference to other kinds of play is that the sessions are completely child led. The child sets the pace of the therapy and the therapist responds accordingly to support the child in helping themselves. Rather than "explicitly teaching" solutions to problems, the play therapist empowers the child to solve their own problems in a way that's natural and effective for them as individuals. A PTI registered therapist knows how to observe unconscious processes at work and delicately reflect where necessary all within a warm safe therapeutic relationship which underpins the whole intervention.
Does Play Therapy work with older children or teenagers?
Absolutely. The real power behind Play Therapy is in the art of the relationship. A few tweaks to the materials available in the room allows for teenagers to feel relaxed and free to express their creativity without fear of judgment. Play Therapy offers a rare opportunity for teenagers to fully express themselves and regress to an area of childhood that may need to be revisited and healed. Adolescence is a time for further self exploration that can be difficult to verbalize. Weekly sessions offer a platform for them to grow their own self-acceptance and self-esteem. Sometimes the term "Creative and Expressive Art Therapy" is used instead of Play Therapy for this age group.
How Do I know if Play Therapy will be suitable for my child?
First, read the Q&A on "Who Play Therapy is for?" and then make an enquiry here to receive a free screening tool that helps the therapist assess the current level of difficulties your child is facing. You can fill this out without obligation. The therapist will follow up with you and you may wish to arrange an initial consultation meeting if necessary.
Should I choose Individual Play Therapy or Group Play Therapy?
Individual Play Therapy is suitable for those with moderate to severe difficulties whereas group Play Therapy is more appropriate for those suffering moderate difficulties. Contact us and we will send you a free screening tool that will help us decide which format would be best for your child. Some children undergo individual Play Therapy first before joining a Play Therapy group. However others may find that their child's problems are mild to moderate or mainly around peer relations and so they prefer to opt for group Play Therapy only.
Please note that groups for Play Therapy are carefully selected according to kinds of difficulties, age and gender and so on. Because we carefully select our groups (for maximum therapeutic benefit), groups may not always be available at your time of enquiry. However we will do our best to form groups and we have a waiting list for those interested parties.
What is the benefit of basing a Play Therapy service within a school or school network?
The key benefit is easier access for children who need extra help and support. Dealing with problems at an earlier age is preferable. There is an opportunity with the greater brain plasticity with children which means there is greater potential for positive change. Collaboration between school staff, parents and therapist has a positive impact on effectiveness and efficacy of the treatment. In other words, the more collaboration the better we can help the child achieve their potential. Often a multidisciplinary approach is desired to serve the child best.
There is also a ripple effect beyond the target child. The whole class benefits from their peer's improvement whether that shows itself as less disruption and/or more meaningful engagement within the class. Teachers' pressure is lightened. Parents seeing a change in their child are more willing to engage with school activities.
Play therapists successfully work within a school or area of schools in other countries such as the UK. Following onset of Play Therapy programmes many schools find knock on benefits such as reduction in truancy, student (and teacher) sick days and detentions.
Currently in Hong Kong, there is not an integrated Play Therapy service with in a network of schools. Most Play Therapists in Hong Kong only operate in the private clinical sector. Some Play Therapists work independently in schools in isolation. In the latest survey by HKU it was estimated that 1 in 3 primary aged children suffered from symptoms of depression. There is a huge demand for cost effective support for these children. It is Rachel’s hope that one day Play Therapy can be integrated and available for all school children who need it in the highly pressured Hong Kong environment. Could your school network be the partners to take the lead with wide access to the evidence based benefits of Play Therapy across schools?
Is Play Therapy effective?
Play therapy is very effective. For every child that is referred to a PTI registered practitioner 70-84% will show a positive improvement. This is based on a large database of over 8000 cases. These results can only be applied to registered practitioners from the Play Therapy UK register.
Who is Play Therapy for/not for?
Play Therapy is for children aged 3 years and up and teenagers who are facing social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Every child is an individual and these difficulties will show themselves in a different way. Below are just some of the reasons why children join Play Therapy.
- Anxiety and depression
- Relationship difficulties with peers or siblings
- Physical illness
- Adoption issues
- Difficulties adjusting to a big life change e.g. relocation, divorce, bereavement.
- Selective mutism. Persistent choosing not to talk in some or all social situations.
- Bullying (either as a bully or a victim)
- Extreme shyness and social withdrawal
- Underperforming at school because of many worries and concerns.
- Child abuse (physical, emotional or sexual)
- Witnessing domestic violence
- Recurrent nightmares, bedwetting and sleeping problems
Play Therapy is not for:
- Children who are generally functioning well in social, emotional and behavioural aspects of their lives.
- Children who need general child care
- Children who have been showing difficulties for less than three months (and therefore might bounce back by themselves with lots of love and support)
- Children training or preparing for school interviews
Although I would recommend plenty of general play in those situations as play is essential for whole child development!