1. A Play Therapist speaks the language your child speaks-play. It’s their natural language. Play Therapists are trained experts in working with children. Play Therapists know toys are a child’s words and play is their language. We know a truck to a child is not just a truck, it can be a space ship. Children tell stories and use metaphors. As Play Therapist, we are trained to look for the themes in their stories and to understand the metaphors thru which they communicate.
2. A Play Therapist is going to do a thorough and complete assessment. Play Therapist will gather information from you as the caregiver/ parent to include your family history, your history, genetic history, educational information, trauma information, birth information, living arrangement. Pediatricians and Primary Care Doctors often do not ask your child if they have been sexually abused. They do not assess for or know how to notice the differences between behaviors that look like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper-Active Disorder), Anxiety, or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). A Play Therapist does.
As a Play Therapist, I have worked with many children and their families. I have seen children be placed on medication to treat symptoms of ADHD at young ages by their primary care doctors/pediatricians. Had parents/families known to seek out a mental health assessment by a Play Therapist, their child might not have needed the medication.
One example, a child who has been sexually abused for 5 years by a grandfather, eventually discloses this abuse; however, due to having not disclosed this abuse when during the course of the abuse, the parents were unaware of the trauma. The child’s behavior indicates he is ADHD and seeks medication and help from the Pediatrician/Primary Care doctor. 5 years later, after the grandfather attempts one last time, the child discloses; as he is brave enough now. Being referred to a Play Therapist the parents learn about trauma and its impacts; they are educated on how trauma can look like ADHD.
3. Play Therapist will see your child consistently on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This provides the play therapist with the opportunity to get to know your child better than the Pediatrician does. Play Therapists are able to continuously assess your child week after week. They are able to look for various themes, learn their feelings, learn about who they are, gain their trust and establish safety within a relationship with them; providing them with a place to express their internal challenges and struggles.
4. If you had an ongoing foot problem, your primary care doctor is going to send you to a specialist. You’re not going to see a Cardiologist to address a foot issue, you would see a Podiatrist. The same is true for your child’s mental health. A Play Therapist specializes in children, their minds and their behavior. We are able to help you and your child communicate better using creative, expressive and playful techniques.