Play therapy is a special type of therapy that can help your child overcome the challenges in his or her life. But you may have noticed as you’ve been doing your research to find the right treatment for your child that there’s a lot of information out there. And you’re not sure what the truth is, and what’s a myth. Look below for the top 5 myths about play therapy, and see if you’ve caught yourself thinking any of them!
1) I must be a bad parent if my child is in play therapy.
This is undeniably false. In fact, you are a phenomenal parent if you’ve noticed your child is struggling and you are willing to give him or her help.
Most of therapy is about finding what is working for you and your child. If there is something that isn’t working, the best thing you can do is collaborate with your child’s therapist to discover: “Why are we doing this? Is there a strategy that will work better?”
A good therapist will involve you in treatment because the most important relationship is between you and your child. It’s unfair to the both of you if the therapist doesn’t say something if she notices a parenting strategy that it isn’t working and doesn’t say anything.
Truth: You’re a great parent if you get therapy help for your child and are open minded about the suggestions the therapist has.
2) If my child is in therapy this young he’s going to need it for life.
The opposite is true. Research shows the earlier the intervention (in this case, seeking help from a play therapist) the better the outcome for the child. It’s extremely uncommon for a child to need therapy for years, but I’m sure you’ve heard of many adults who have spent several years in therapy trying to figure out strategies they deserved to learn a long time ago.
Children go through different stages of learning and understanding the world. Sometimes a child who has experienced a tough situation during the preschool years may feel differently when he get older. Your child may benefit from returning to therapy to get a refresher on the skills he learned, at his new developmental stage.
Truth: Play therapy helps a child to get on the path to good mental health.
3) If I take my child to play therapy the next step is he’s going to need meds.
Maybe. Maybe not. Your child is experiencing sadness, worries, fears, or anger that can be managed or alleviated by coping skills. Coping skills are just that –skills to help your child cope with the feelings he’s having to help adjust to or overcome a stressor.
It’s possible you and your child may benefit from having a conversation with a psychiatrist or pediatrician who can talk to you about the symptoms your child is having, and get a recommendation about whether play therapy alone, or a play therapy-medication combination would be best for your child.
Truth: A good play therapist will support you in a conversation about a referral to someone who can talk to you about whether medication for your child is a helpful option.
4) The play therapist alone is going to “fix” my child. I don’t need to do anything.
Play therapy is an excellent way to get your child back on the path of feeling better –less fearful, less sadness, fewer tantrums and acts of defiance. But a play therapist alone will not be able to fix the problem. You as a parent, and sometimes even grandparents, siblings, or teachers need to be a part of the solution too.
How? As a parent it’s important you give your child’s therapist feedback about what’s going on at home, what’s working and what’s not working, and participating in discussions with your child’s therapist about the interventions she is doing with your child in therapy.
Some therapists will even recommend you participate in session. If she doesn’t, you are absolutely allowed to request it! The therapist’s relationship with your child is important, but secondary to your relationship with your child.
Your child’s play therapist may even have a discussion with you about troubles at school. Talk to your child’s therapist if you would like her to speak to the teachers about good strategies to support your child’s success at school.
Truth: It’s true – it can take a village to raise (and help heal) your child.
5) Play therapy uses play to help my child. How can “playing” be helpful?
Good question! If you were having challenges in your life, and went to a therapist tomorrow, what would do in your session? Likely you would sit in a chair or on a couch, you would talk out your feelings, get some feedback, and then an hour later you would leave hopefully feeling better.
You and I both know that your child is going to struggle with sitting in a chair for an hour, talk honestly about his feelings, listen to feedback, and then leave session ready to change. Why won’t traditional talk therapy work on your child?
Because your child is not just a little adult. His brain requires a specialized way of accessing those feelings and helping him understand what they mean. Play helps your child explain to the therapist why he’s doing what he’s doing, and the play therapist can use play to help him understand what he can to make different choices so he can feel better.
Truth: Play is the language children speak and a play therapist can speak that language to help your child improve.
The bottom line is there are many myths out there about play therapy. So here’s a truth: some of them are true, and some of them not. What I know for sure is that it was courageous of you to recognize the need to get help for your child. This means you are brave enough to contact a play therapist to see how she can help your child.
If you have heard of any other myths please share them here!
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health.