If adults have words, children have toys and games. Children are not as successful as adults in understanding and expressing their emotions, and their cognitive capacities may not always be sufficient for this. That’s why children express themselves best in games. They say to us through metaphor, I live these things, I feel them.
Since children have difficulty in making sense of their own feelings, the therapy method applied to adults is not suitable for children below a certain level of development. In play therapy, children express their needs using games and toys. We can say that play therapy for children has the same meaning as psychological counseling for adults. As a tool, the therapist uses play, which is the child’s most natural way of expressing himself. By creating a safe environment, the play therapist encourages the child to play as he wishes, by establishing a bond with the child, and encourages the child to open up and express himself. In short, play itself is intervention in play therapy. As a part of their experiences during the game, children repeat and restructure their emotions that affect their behavior, namely their anger, fear, sadness, disappointment. The therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the child is the most important factor that makes children feel safe when they create the game that reflects their stressful and intense emotional experience.
With the support of play therapy, children can create games that bring together the emotional events they struggle with in their own world. Usually, the child cannot express these experiences verbally. In the therapy room, there are specially selected toys suitable for the child that can reflect every emotional state. The child chooses toys that reflect the emotional problems appropriate for the game he will create and creates his game. With the sessions, the game develops and continues until it provides understanding and comfort about the problem. In the process of play therapy, the child can change their perspectives and behaviors about events and enjoy their relationships and communication with others. By recreating the disappointments during the game, the child has the opportunity to change these experiences during the game, restructures their experiences, and thus can enjoy both the game experiences and the relationship exchanges in life.
The therapy process depends on a wide variety of factors related to the child’s past and present events. Two important factors are the developmental age of the child and the age of the trauma if there has been any trauma. Since the child will go to the trauma period, the sooner the therapy comes after the event, the shorter the therapy period will be.
One of the most important factors in play therapy is the contribution of the family. The conversation between the parent or caregiver(s) and the therapist continues on a regular basis. It is important that parents cooperate with the therapist. The therapist sometimes invites the family to play if he sees fit. In addition, the therapist gives families advice that will help their children’s recovery process during therapy and that they can apply outside the therapy room. Thus, not only the child but also the parent receives support from an outside expert on parenting issues.