Play therapy can be the best method for building rapport with any child. It can be difficult for a child, when starting therapy, to talk about what is bothering him or her. The child is in a strange place, meeting with a therapist who is a stranger. The combination of these two factors can be overwhelming and intimidating to a child.
Play therapy is a means of breaking the ice and building rapport with the child. Play therapy is based on what a child naturally does, that is play!!! A therapist will have a greater chance of helping the child when the child is relaxed and comfortable.
Play therapy can train a child to take what he learns in counseling and use the acquired skills in other areas of life. A game as simple as checkers can accomplish this.
A child with ADHD, (Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder), can derive great benefits from playing checkers during therapy. The therapist can assess the child’s ability to stay seated, wait his turn, pay attention to detail, sustain that attention, as well as how the child reacts to victory or defeat, (getting what they want or not getting what they want).
A child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder typically does not want to follow rules. However, even in a game of checkers, the child must follow the rules of the game. The therapist can get the child to see during a game of checkers that without rules the game would be chaos. Thus, the child begins to see the importance of rules.
Regardless of the type of play during play therapy, the child will come to realize that in order to really enjoy playing, he or she must learn to interact appropriately with others.
Frank Kello, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern