Parent Concerns, Personal Growth, & Questions... Oh my!
Updated: Feb 21
When you are concerned about your kiddo, it can be tough to know where to turn for support. We are here to help you take a break from Google searching! Find out why kiddos start play therapy and what you should be asking while on the hunt for your play therapist.
If you've read our most recent blog post, then you know about the basics of what play therapy is and how it helps children (Haven't read it? Check it out here). There is a lot to consider when you are thinking about play therapy for your child.
Is play therapy the right choice for my child?
There are many reasons for a child to start play therapy. Research indicates that play therapy is effective for helping children with a wide range of specific issues. These issues include the following:
>> Anxiousness and ongoing worry
>> Persistent sadness and depression
>> Self-esteem and low confidence
>> Life stressors and traumatic/adverse experiences (divorce, relocation, death, chronic illness, natural disasters, abuse, witnessing violence, etc.)
>> Defiance, anger, & aggression
>> Peer relationship challenges
>> Child-parent relationship stress
>> Inattentiveness & impulsivity
>> Academic difficulties
Parents often seek out a play therapist when they have a specific concern.
In these situations, it is wise to consider speaking with a play therapist and taking action steps before a smaller struggle turns into an overwhelming issue.
Why else might a kiddo begin play therapy?
Individual growth and support!
A common misconception about therapy (for children & adults) is that it is only appropriate when there is a big problem. We reject this idea at our practice and believe therapy can provide valuable opportunities for lasting growth, regardless of whether or not someone has a “big problem”.
Many parents choose play therapy for their child simply because they want their child to have a supportive environment to explore and grow in their social-emotional and cognitive development. One of my favorite things about play therapy is that it supports the whole-child. There does not need to be a specific problem to address in order for a child to benefit from the power of play therapy and the therapeutic relationship. In fact, creating a strong therapeutic relationship can serve as a protective factor when a life challenge pops up.
What to ask a play therapist
>> What type of play therapy training have you received?
You want to ensure that your child’s therapist has the knowledge and skills to help them flourish. Consider the therapist’s level of training as well as their experience with any certain issues.
>> What is your experience working with children who are ___ years old?
A 4-year-old is typically at a vastly different place in development than a 9-year-old. Your child’s therapist should be experienced and understanding of your child’s particular stage of development.
>> How do you work with parents?
This is a *must* on my list. Find a therapist that is willing to communicate directly with you. Feedback is important and will help your child make positive changes outside of sessions. You should not be left clueless about how your child’s play therapy sessions are going.
What to ask yourself
>> What characteristics are important to me when it comes to my child's therapist?Every family has their own unique culture and set of values, so consider yours when searching for a play therapist.
>> What days/times would sessions fit into our life?
If there are only certain days or times that will work for your child’s sessions, check with the therapist about their availability before setting up your first appointment. After-school times are in high demand and you might have to contact a few therapists if your scheduling needs are inflexible.
>> What are my expectations for play therapy?
Your child’s therapist will likely discuss this with you, but it is helpful to think about this beforehand. Getting clear on your expectations will help you and your child get the most out of play therapy.
>> Are there any aspects of play therapy that you’re unsure about?
Take note and be sure to bring your questions up when you talk with your child’s therapist.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jasandra Oeffinger, MA, LPC is a therapist and co-founder of Human State of Mind Counseling in Houston, Texas. She works with young children, as well as adults, who struggle with anxiety, self-esteem/identity, stress, trauma, life transitions, and problematic behavior. Jasandra is also a doctoral student and conducts research on a variety of topics, with a large focus on play therapy and young children with traumatic experiences.
If you are interested in working with Jasandra, visit www.hsmcounseling.com.
Are you a teen or "twenty-something" adult in need of support and guidance? Learn more about our fellow co-founder, Stephanie Longtain, MS, LCSW and her work with tweens, teens, and young adults.