Play is a child’s best form of communication. Unlike adults, children have not yet fully developed their emotive language and verbal expression. As adults we are able to sit in a chair with our therapist and have a conversation, whereas children will struggle to do this. However, play is used as a means of communication for children and through this communication a deeper understanding of the child can be established. It is the therapist who pays attention to the child’s play and tries to understand what the cild may be dealing with in their internal world. Through common themes the therapist is then able to gently help the child to better understand their own inner world and help them to find ways to appropriately manage their difficult thoughts and feelings. Thus, play is also a window into the child’s inner world and therefore provides and opportunity of understanding a child’s inner conflicts that might be difficult to verbalise.
Psychoanalytic play therapy is a relatively long-term process that helps your child to better understand their inner conflicts. The psychoanalytic framework aims to explore one’s internal world and process to help alleviate their symptoms.
How does it work?
Usually a parent will phone with a specific concern regarding their child. The therapist will then meet with the child’s parents to discuss the issue at hand and get to know a bit about the child and the family. The child will then meet with the therapist for between 4 and 6 consecutive sessions, usually weekly, to assess the child. This assessment will give the therapist the opportunity to meet the child and form a therapeutic relationship with the child. This assessment will help the therapist ascertain more or less how long the therapy should be and to develop short-term and long-term goals for the therapy. These goals can be for the child or the parents and sometimes both.
It is important to remember that a child’s therapy is often most effective when parents are also willing to help support their child through this process. Feedback is usually provided at least once a term to parents but this can be more often should it be required. In some cases it may be of benefit for the child’s parents to be in a parallel parenting counselling process, with another therapist, in order to help facilitate change.