• Fiona Holiday

How Can Play Be Therapy?

Not many people are familiar with play therapy. It is a relatively new and unknown way of supporting children who may be struggling with emotions, relationships, behaviour and wellbeing. I've met many people who think that my goal in play therapy is to help children learn to play. Perhaps some children do need a space to discover what play can be, but that isn't the focus. Like talking therapies, art, music and drama therapy, the intention is to allow children to express themselves and to be heard. I listen not only to words but to movement, to marks, to expression, to stories played out and buildings constructed.

Play is the way we humans are designed to learn and grow. Throughout the animal kingdom, play is part of behaviour. It is essential to our survival and development and the more animals play, the larger their brains.

Playing is about learning our limits: physically, socially, cognitively, emotionally. It is a safe place to try out new things, practise new skills, learn to negotiate, assert ourselves, compromise to keep the game going. It is deadly serious.

When we play, we are experiencing the safety and connection that allow exploration and curiosity. Play is a signal that all is well.

Play is therapeutic because it comes from within and when we are given the opportunity to express ourselves, we remember what it is like to feel joy and engagement. During play, we can talk about the scary and the sorrowful. We can imagine what might have helped, we can say the words we wanted to hear. We can communicate the unmentionable. Because we are playing.

The distance between playing and reality keeps things feeling safe, just as their proximity makes it meaningful.

If you want to know more, please get in touch. I would love the power of play to be spread far and wide!

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