Play is a child's natural form of expression
(http://www.playtherapy.org.uk/AboutPlayTherapy/AxlinePrinciples.htm). This means children use play to explore the world, make sense of life, show others how they feel, and connect to people. That's why play is so useful for helping children to resolve their troubles and worries, and express thoughts or emotions. All behaviour is an attempt by a child to solve a problem. The difficulty is that the brain uses many ways that don't work, or make a problem worse.
It is often hard to see what 'problem' the child is trying to solve but it usually relates to a very early developmental struggle, trauma, or missed experience. It can often leave parents and carers feeling useless (and children too!).
Fortuna provides play therapy to support children with their emotional or behavioural struggles because play helps children sort out many difficulties at a deep 'subconscious' level which means it avoids shame or anxiety, just looks for solutions. In play therapy children can often see new ways to solve problems because they feel safe, relaxed, and curious with the toys, the playroom, and the play therapist, Di Hoyer. It takes time to build this trusting environment, so play therapy can take a long time, but we believe it is worth it.
Some children use play therapy to revisit their life experiences, difficulties, and worries. Some children explore the same issues but using the current moment experiences that provide 'new' information to the brain about trust, relationships, self-worth, etc. In play therapy children are never made to talk about their past, they explore in their own time, what issues they are troubled by.
Play therapy helps children explore these struggles in many ways such as story-telling, sensory play, puppetry, sand play, creative mediums, music, and small world play.
Most important is the relationship developed with the play therapist, so that the child feels accepted, safe, noticed, and understood. Play in the 'here and now' helps a developing brain resolve old struggles in new ways, with new insights, skills, and self-confidence.
Play Therapy provides strategies for expression, self-awareness, and self-regulation. It also enables children to safely begin to notice how others experience them.
Underpinning all play therapy at Fortuna is the belief that supporting parents and carers is usually the best way to help children make positive changes. Support sessions, group work, child-development training, and parenting strategies can all be provided as part of the play therapy project.
Play therapy can help children take positive control of situations, and also to learn when to let grown-ups or others take control whilst still feeling safe, trusting, and valued. Play therapy can be effective in groups too. Di undertakes classroom activities based on therapy techniques, children’s yoga, and therapeutic story-telling. All of these help to promote self-awareness, emotional expression, relationships, and mindfulness (so the brain is working at its best). Working in groups helps children to practice, repeat, observe, and explore the therapeutic messages within stories and activities within their class relationships.
Children are encouraged to give feedback on how play therapy helps them, here are some examples:
· Di helps me share my worries in the right way.
· The toy tank helped me blow up my worries.
· Teddy helped me learn about 'good hugs'.
· In play therapy I have learnt about me feelings,
and other's too.
· I have learnt how I can use my toys at home to help
· I can be sad and relax 'til it goes away.
· Here's how one child summed up play therapy ;
"There was a young boy who was sad.
His worries were ever so bad.
Along came Di, and as time went by,
he swapped his worries for glad"