This week, Mountainland Pediatrics will celebrate Play Therapy Week, Feb 3-9. Different from traditional therapy, play therapy is a form of child therapy based upon the fact that play is the child’s natural medium of self-expression. Play therapy can be particularly helpful for children with behavioral issues (caused by bullying, loss, or divorce, etc.) and for those with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Play therapy is a unique way to connect with children that gives them the opportunity to “play out” their feelings and process problems in their lives in a safe, creative way. Play has benefits and can be used to better connect with children as they process what is going on in their lives. Meagan Barnes, a therapist at Mountainland pediatrics says “A child’s first language is play. I feel so lucky to be able to use play therapy to help children express themselves and heal.”

Play has several benefits. According to the play theorist Sandra Russ, “Play is a fun, enjoyable activity that elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life. It expands self-expression, self-knowledge self-actualization and self-efficacy…In addition, play allows us to practice skills and roles needed for survival. Learning and development are best fostered through play.”

Kellee Clark, therapist with Community Reach Center’s Early Childhood Services team, explains how play therapy is used. “There are many types of play therapy approaches. Each of our clinicians brings their own personal training and style to the process. In general, we utilize toys and ourselves to allow the child to process through whatever is needed in the moment.  Various toys and creative play are utilized according to where the child is developmentally. Generally speaking, children 10 and under cannot think abstractly which we is why utilize interventions that engaged the right side of the brain.”

Play therapy can be directive in nature. For instance, a grieving child and their therapist could use LEGOS to learn and process what happens during a funeral. Or, a child could use puppets to tell a story about their family, so the therapist could learn more about the client’s family dynamics. It can also be non-directive, in which the therapist allows children to play with sand or play dough to relieve stress instead of just sitting and talking. In fact, play therapy tactics such as these can also be utilized by adults.

Registered Play therapists (RPT) are licensed mental health professionals who have earned a master’s or doctorate degree in the mental health field and have obtained the additional education and training necessary for credentialing. At Mountainland Pediatrics, providers utilize play therapy tactics to build trust with their younger patients, but it can also be used with adults.

Play Therapy Week will take place at Mountainland Pediatrics and Early Childhood Services on Feb. 2-9 in Thornton.  Clinicians will provide activities with children during the week that promote the value of play and play therapy.

Mountainland Pediatrics is the pediatric primary care subsidiary of Community Reach Center, a top-tier non-profit behavioral healthcare provider serving the metro Denver area. If you ever have a question about your children, want to schedule a check-up appointment, or are looking for a Denver-area pediatrician and want to learn more about our practice at Mountainland Pediatrics, call us at 303-430-0823.