Children often struggle to effectively communicate their feelings and to understand why they are having them in the first place.
As a parent, it can be hard to watch your child grapple with emotional and behavioural challenges. You’re searching for a way to help them, a way to understand what they’re going through, and a means to help them thrive in their daily life.
Play therapy provides children with the opportunity to explore and heal in a way that feels natural and safe, and that allows them to distance themselves from events that are most difficult for them.
Because play is the primary way that children learn about the world and express their thoughts and feelings, they naturally turn to play when they are overwhelmed. Play provides children with emotional safety, which allows them to describe their experiences, try on new roles and perspectives, express their feelings and inner conflicts, and gain mastery over their fears and anxiety.
When children experience upsetting events or life changes, play also becomes an important part of helping them work through what has happened. Directed play activities can help children develop and practice more effective social skills, coping strategies, frustration tolerance, and problem-solving skills.
Synergetic Play Therapy is a child-centered approach that is informed by research on stress responses and recovery in the nervous system, interpersonal neurobiology, attachment, and mindfulness. When children are struggling with emotions and behaviour, their body’s stress response system can go into overdrive or shut down in a collapse state. Through working in the metaphor of play and in attunement with their psychologist, children have the opportunity to express and co-regulate uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that they would not have been able to move towards as easily on their own.
Click here for more information on Synergetic Play Therapy.
A secure attachment between children and caregivers has been repeatedly shown to be an important foundation for positive child development outcomes. Theraplay is a parent-child dyad therapy where one or both parents come into session with their child to participate in interactive games and activities that help to create resiliency and promote secure attachments. These activities are playful and aim to provide structure, challenge, engagement, and nurture/care. Parents learn to play with their children in a way that supports emotional safety, regulation, and self-esteem. Theraplay activities can be especially helpful when parent-child relationships have been strained or interrupted in some way (e.g., parent separation or children in foster placements).
Cognitive-behavioural play therapy integrates play activities with cognitive and behavioural therapies so that it is developmentally suited for younger children. This approach is directive and educational. Play materials are chosen and used to recreate a child’s struggle in safe ways, as well as to promote understanding, model adaptive ways of thinking, and teach healthy problem-solving and coping skills.
“Enter into children’s play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts and souls meet.” – Virginia Axline
We believe therapy is part of living a healthy life; you don’t have to be in crisis or facing an emergency to seek support. Our practice is built on long-term connections, and we walk with you as you navigate the different phases and challenges in your life.
While working with children and adolescents is what we’re best known for, we extend our specialized assessment and therapeutic support services to parents, adults, and couples who are on their own path to healing and living a life they love.
In our first session, we learn about your child’s developmental history, family dynamics, and specific challenges. We will explain the process in detail and answer any questions you have.
In session, specific activities will differ depending on your child and their presenting strengths and difficulties. Your child will have the opportunity to direct and lead their play process. As well, your child will engage in structured and directive activities to help them learn and practice new skills or to help them understand their life experiences better.
Play is the natural language of children. Often, the hard things in life lack words, and play allows for them to be expressed and processed in an emotionally safe way. The play therapy relationship with the therapist is also important in that it communicates an unconditional positive regard and safety, which is therapeutic.
Play therapy can benefit children of all ages, though it’s most commonly used with those aged 3–12. It can be particularly beneficial for children experiencing a wide range of concerns, including behavioural struggles, anxiety, depression, trauma, loss or grief, and developmental or learning difficulties.
Play therapy can look similar to your child’s daily play but in play therapy, we identify patterns and themes in play to help learn about a child’s world view, strengths, struggles, etc. During sessions, we co-facilitate play to role-play problem solving or coping skills, help them learn new perspectives, process stressful or confusing emotions, or shift negative beliefs.
Play therapy can be a powerful tool when facilitated by fully trained mental health practitioners. It’s helpful for children to process and heal in emotionally safe and developmentally appropriate ways.
Typically ages 3-12 but many teens also love to express themselves through art, role-play, and sandtray. Thus, we often integrate play therapy with talk therapy for teens.
For young children (under age 5) we may do shorter (30-minute) sessions more frequently (weekly) to work within their attention span and play capacity.
Some children come a few times or intermittently to complete wellness check-ins, while others will come in for ongoing support as they grow.
Some will come frequently but for only a short amount of time (e.g., to help them adjust during life transitions such as parent separation or to ease anxiety before an upcoming school year).
If you’re looking to get started with J. Gordon Psychology Group, get in touch! You can email, call or submit a message using our contact form.
Book your next appointment through our online portal.