Child therapy focuses on healing and strengthening children and enriching their relationships. Therapists help children accept their emotions, develop trust and confidence, and improve their behavior. The therapist usually meets separately with parents to update them on treatment progress and provide guidance and support. When children and families meet together to talk or play, sessions typically focus on helping parents understand and more effectively parent their child. Children learn to express their emotions, improve communication, and solve problems through play and talk.
Child therapy capitalizes on children’s natural ability to express feelings and resolve conflicts through play. Therapists use various media, including storytelling, puppet play, drama, music, dance, sand play, painting, and drawing. Children sometimes explore the playroom freely, engaging in spontaneous play. At other points, they may draw family scenes, use puppets to act out events in the family, create a scene in a sand tray, tell stories, or play specially designed therapeutic board games.
Family play therapy focuses on developing emotional bonds (including through filial play and Theraplay), improving communication, and creating harmonious living environments. Therapists might hold play sessions with siblings, engage with an individual parent and child, or play games with the entire family.
What types of problems does play therapy address?
Child therapy can heal children’s distress, bring family communication patterns to light, and help children and families discover new problem-solving techniques and strategies. It can lessen the effects of trauma and loss, reduce anxiety and depression, improve behavior, address social and academic difficulties, and strengthen family relationships.
How long does child therapy last?
Many therapists consider twelve sessions a standard for significant and lasting improvement. Children and families can make substantial progress in a shorter time frame, primarily if they have already worked with the therapist.
How often do children and families attend child therapy sessions?
It is usually best for children and families to attend play therapy at least weekly for the first several sessions. More intense treatment can help if there is significant distress. After clients make substantial gains, many can progress by attending sessions once every two weeks or less.
How effective is child therapy?
Child therapy, especially when it involves play and includes families, is one of the most empirically validated forms of therapy. Studies indicate that it can exert positive effects for several years after the end of treatment.