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Play therapy is used to treat mental disorders such ODD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression in children between the ages of 3 to 12. It involves a non-threatening form of communication in which toys represent words. Concepts such as displacement (redirecting feelings from an original target to someone else) and projection (attributing one’s own thoughts and feelings toward someone else) are explored during games. Specifically, children engage in storytelling followed by identifying the feelings of characters in the story; role-playing with puppets as a form of feeling projection; and blowing bubbles to improve deep and controlled breathing. The therapist observes feelings and recurring themes, while challenging the child with more effective alternatives to replace disturbing behavior.
According to the Association for Play Therapy;
"Child play therapy is a way of being with the child that honors their unique developmental level and looks for ways of helping in the “language” of the child – play. Licensed mental health professionals therapeutically use play to help their clients, most often children ages three to 12 years, to better express themselves and resolve their problems.
Play Therapy works best when a safe relationship is created between the therapist and client, one in which the latter may freely and naturally express both what pleases and bothers them.
Mental health agencies, schools, hospitals, and private practitioners have utilized Play Therapy as a primary intervention or as supportive therapy for:
Behavioral problems, such as anger management, grief and loss, divorce and abandonment, and crisis and trauma.
Behavioral disorders, such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), autism or pervasive developmental, academic and social developmental, physical and learning disabilities, and conduct disorders."