Play Therapy is a form of counselling that uses play to help children. Rather than having to talk about what is troubling them, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling interrogated or threatened.
Play Therapy can help children in many ways e.g. a reduction in anxiety and raised self-esteem, or change in behaviour and improved relations with family and friends. Play is a child's natural medium and the role of the therapist is to help the child process the events that are causing them problems.
Play therapy in Britain is based around eight basic principles to guide the Child Centred Play Therapy process. although seemingly simple in nature, these guidelines provide a foundation for facilitating change and growth in child clients. Axline (1969, p. 73) outlined the eight principles as follows:
1. The therapist must develop a warm, friendly relationship with the child, in which good rapport is established as soon as possible.
2. The therapist accepts the child exactly as he is.
3. The therapist establishes a feeling of permissiveness in the relationship so that the child feels free to express his feelings completely.
4. The therapist is alert to recognise the feelings the child is expressing and reflects those feelings back to him in such a manner that he gains insight into his behaviour.
5. The therapist maintains a deep respect for the child’s ability to solve his own problems if given an opportunity to do so. The responsibility to make choices and to institute change is the child’s.
6. The therapist does not attempt to direct the child’s actions or conversation in any manner. The child leads the way; the therapist follows.
7. The therapist does not attempt to hurry the therapy along. It is a gradual process and is recognised as such by the therapist.
8. The therapist establishes only those limitations that are necessary to anchor the therapy to the world of reality and to make the child aware of his responsibility in the relationship.