Family Therapy and Play Therapy
Family Therapy: Family therapy typically involves one therapist meeting with an entire family (or several family members) to address issues that impact the whole family. Family therapy is a useful modality to help strengthen the ways in which family members relate to one another. Frequently, parents seek out family therapy when they are not getting along with their children, their kids are ‘out of control’, or there is immense sibling rivalry. Other times, family therapy is sought when a family’s capacity to handle life’s stressors is diminished due to difficult transitions, such as divorce, the loss of a job, the return of a parent to the workplace, a death in the family, or the creation of a blended family.
Play Therapy: Play therapy is a structured approach to therapy that builds on the natural language of children, the language of play. Therapists use various play materials to help children express what is troubling them when they are not able to verbalize their thoughts and feelings as adults do in more traditional talk therapy. In play therapy, toys are like the child's words and play is the child's language. Through play, therapists may help children learn more adaptive behaviors when there are problems with emotional or social skills.. The major goals of play therapy are the enhancement of self-esteem and decision-making skills. These tools help children to handle life’s various stressors as well as providing the confidence and insight necessary to resolve any problem behaviors. Play therapy is widely regarded as the most effective form of therapy for children ages 3-11 years.
Play-Family Therapy is a method that offers significant help for childhood issues and problems including: peer interactions, separation anxiety, difficulties reading social cues, toilet training, withdrawn behavior, school misbehavior, inattention, impulsivity and aggression, playing in an age appropriate way, separation and divorce as well as various trauma experiences. Play-Family Therapy can also be used preventively when parents feel that the situation may decline without attention to a particular concern.
After an evaluation, the child’s play therapy sessions begin with twenty minutes of family therapy, which addresses the issues of concern. During the family therapy, the therapist meets with the child and the accompanying parent. During the play therapy, the therapist meets in a playroom with the child. Through the play, the child’s conscious and unconscious communication allow for deeper insight into areas of concern. During play therapy children use their whole mind and body and reveal their unconscious thoughts, fears, anxieties and wishes. The therapist is continually tracking the metaphors or themes of play during the session to understand the root of the child’s problematic behaviors. These patterns are shared with the parents at regularly scheduled parent sessions (without the child present) where the therapist will work with the parents to develop home behavioral strategies.
By confronting problems in a play therapy setting, children can find healthier solutions. Play therapy allows children to change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve their concerns. Adults use words to express their concerns, seek help and eventually gain mastery over the problem. Children use play to master feelings, concerns and confusing or unsettling life events. Play therapy provides children with a clinical setting in which they can create lasting resolutions that can be safely discovered, rehearsed, mastered and adapted into lifelong strategies.
When seeking therapy it is always preferable to choose a therapist who has experience in helping clients with similar issues. For example, while most therapists have some knowledge about sexuality issues, sexual problems are best managed by a therapist who concentrates on sexual function/dysfunction issues and has received specialized training in these areas. Similarly, someone seeking help for an eating disorder is best helped by a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.
For a better understanding of our therapists’ specialties, please refer to our biographies in the About Us section of the site as well as our Information Center where you can read many self-help articles written by our therapists. You may also contact our Director, “Alex” Caroline Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW at (215) 570–8614 to discuss your particular situation.
Remember, you do not have to be alone, our therapists are here to help.