Play is a child’s natural way of connecting with the world, expressing emotions, practicing the skills and roles needed for survival, developing problem solving skills and preparing for the adult world. Clinicians working with children at MCP utilize play to help children learn more adaptive behaviors when there are emotional or social skills deficits. In a play therapy session, a mental health clinician oversees the play environment, helping children feel safe as they explore and gain mastery over conflicts and concerns.
Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world around them (Axline, 1947; Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002). Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development. The use of play therapy helps children to:
- Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
- Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
- Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.
- Learn to experience and express emotion.
- Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.
- Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.
- Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.