6 Reasons Play Therapy Can Help Traumatized Kids

When children survive a traumatic experience, they often need the help of a professional counselor to make sense of what happened to them and express their feelings about the situation. Talking about trauma can be very difficult for children, and sometimes they are not developed enough to understand what is expected in traditional therapy. Play therapy is an innovative way to provide treatment to children who have been through something frightening or harmful that uses children's instincts for play. Here are 6 ways play therapy is helpful to children who have been traumatized. 

Play comes naturally. 

Kids naturally explore their environments and express what is on their minds through play. Almost every child will act out stories with dolls or action figures or will stack blocks or dig in sand. Using this avenue as a way of providing therapy makes perfect sense with children because they are predisposed to engage in these activities. 

Play helps kids communicate. 

Sometimes children find it easier to express themselves through play than they do with words. Play therapists can examine the way children play, asking the child to perform specific tasks or asking questions about the play, and discover what the child is thinking or feeling. 

Kids who may not feel ready to talk about something bad that happened to them may be willing to disclose the details of the event through play. The Child Mind Institute states that a child suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may actually stop talking completely, but they may still play with dolls or other items.

Play encourages emotional safety. 

Kids may feel a great deal of anxiety in a room with adults who are asking questions about a traumatic event. This fear can cause them to shut down. 

When children are at play, they tend to be more relaxed. Once a child begins to play with toys, the child begins to let down their emotional walls and feels more comfortable discussing difficult topics. 

Playing with a therapist also helps children bond with that person, allowing them to trust and feel emotionally safe with the counselor. 

Play helps children organize their thoughts. 

Traumatic events can be almost impossible for children to organize in a clear way. They may not know exactly what happened, why it happened, or the meaning behind the event. They only know that they felt sad and afraid. 

When a child reenacts the events through pretend play or discusses what happened through the viewpoint of a doll or other toy, the child can star to make sense of the event and understand what happened. This is important in helping the child realize that the fault was with someone else, or that there was no one at fault at all. 

Play allows kids to process trauma. 

In order to work through the destructive feelings that can result from a traumatic experience, the child needs to process those feelings and understand where they originated. Children may not have the ability to do this in a conscious and deliberate way, but they can often find the source of their feelings while playing. 

Play helps families communicate. 

Children may find it difficult to express their thoughts and feelings to parents and other members of the family. This may be because they fear hurting the other person or because they feel guilty about what happened. 

With the involvement of a therapist, a child and another family member can begin to feel closer to each other and can open the doors to communication. A child who engages in play with a parent or other person in the family may feel more comfortable and trusting when it comes to sharing thoughts and feelings. 

Play therapy is an important tool when it comes to working with children who have been traumatized or hurt. For more information on how this can help your child, contact a counseling center like Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc.