Why We Use Play Therapy

Parents frequently tell me ?My child is extremely bright and verbally advanced but he won?t talk to me about what is bothering him?. This is familiar to most parents and most of us grownups are perplexed when our non-stop ?chatting machine ? seems to clam up just at the time when we need them to talk to us. Children express themselves verbally about more and more things as they grow and learn. They often try to talk to us on our level because they feel it is expected. But, using words to explore subjects is not generally on the same level when dealing with their emotions. Children develop capacities to experience more and more subtle emotions as their bodies and brains develop more sophisticated neurological systems. Children are primarily concrete in their thinking. They are black and white in their concepts of right and wrong. They see things in extreme terms. They use toys and objects to ?pretend?. This pretending can be fun. It can be scary. It is its own reward. It is personal and has no fixed rules. Children reenact situations in their lives. They play ?school? and ?soldiers?. They take on roles and try them out. They pretend they are us and that we are them. Creating play situations that are parallel to dilemmas occurring in the child?s life can help the child master or resolve them. Most of us forget what it was like to be little in a big-persons? world and most of our memories are filtered through several layers of developmental maturation. We continue to rewrite our autobiographies throughout our lives and eventually the edges are so polished that we speak fondly of the ?good old days?. As grown-ups we process our problems mentally and solve them in our own minds. We deal with things internally. Children externalize or play through their problems. I believe that play is the most direct way to the heart and mind of a child. As Plato is often quoted as saying, ? I can learn more about someone in an hour of play than in a month of conversation.?

David Pavlick, M.S., L.C.S.W. Director of Clinical Services

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