February 21, 2013

What Is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a theoretically based treatment approach for children 3-12 years of age that uses a child’s natural tendency to “play out” their reactions to life situations. Toys in a play therapy room include games, puppets, art supplies, and sand trays. All toys are carefully selected to facilitate creative and emotional expression from children.

In play therapy children learn how to identify and recognize their feelings. It improves their self-concept, reduces anxiety and initiates behavioral changes. By making appropriate choices in the play room children find solutions to problems and learn self control which leads to taking responsibility for their actions.

Play therapy is facilitated by a play therapist that provides an environment where a child feels safe to play out his or her concerns. As a result, the therapist can assess the child’s play and make recommendations to parents concerning plans for resolving problems.

Children who are dealing with death, divorce, abandonment, or abuse can benefit from play therapy Children who are experiencing difficulty adjusting to moving, starting school, the birth of a sibling or a chronic illness can find emotional support in play therapy. Play therapy can also help children who are experiencing problems related to anxiety, ADHD, autism, attachment disorders, and learning disabilities.  

With advanced play therapy training, experience and supervision, a mental health professional can earn the Registered Play Therapist or Registered Play Therapist Credential conferred by the Association for Play Therapy (APT). APT is a national non-profit professional society that provides research, training and credentialing programs to assist and enhance the expertise of mental health professionals. Additional information is available at www.a4pt.org

For more information on Pam Dyson and her play therapy services visit www.pamdyson.com Mental health professionals can learn more about play therapy training opportunities at www.stlplaytherapy.com

February 1, 2013

Noticing Changes in Your Five-Year-Old?

Is she clingy and doesn't want to be separated from you?

Are you seeing regressive behaviors such as toileting accidents or more crying?

Has he told you he wants to stay at preschool and not go to kindergarten?

Before I became a child therapist I taught Pre-K and each school year, around the end of January or early February, parents would come to me wondering why their child was exhibiting regressive behaviors and seeking advice on what to do about them.  Even now, as a child therapist, parents express the same concerns this time of year about their five year olds. 

I validate parents concerns and the frustration they’re feeling and then I ask one simple question. “Have you recently registered your five year old for kindergarten?”  The answer is usually "Yes!"

Going to kindergarten is a big transition for a five year old. Everyone is telling them how grown up they are and talking non-stop about how great it will be to go to kindergarten. The child feels torn. They're excited to be growing up but they're also anxious and apprehensive about leaving preschool and all the familiarities to which they've grown accustomed. 

It's a big step for a five year old and as parents you can help make that transition less stressful. When you see the above mentioned behaviors take a few minutes to give your child an extra hug and ask them if they're feeling sad or scared about leaving preschool and going to kindergarten. Validate what they’re feeling and offer helpful suggestions such as driving by the new school and taking a photo of them standing in front of it. 

Spend some time on the school playground on the weekend or at the end of the school day. Mark on the calendar the day your child will be going to the school for a visit or kindergarten screening. Don’t forget to locate the school restroom during the visit because that’s a big concern for a soon to be kindergartener.

I encourage parents to put less emphasis on growing up and more on making the transition to kindergarten easier. It will help your child feel less anxious and the regressive behaviors will gradually disappear.