DO accept that play is therapeutic in its own right, and that although a play therapy session may seem like “just playing” to adults, it is actually a powerful and essential therapy tool for children.
DO keep in mind that sometimes therapy sessions for children include things that at first look may not seem like therapy, such as playing card games or checkers. These activities provide a way for therapists to develop a relationship with a child, create a comfortable background activity for talking about important issues, and address concerns such as fairness, social skills, and acceptance of winning and losing.
DON’T ask your child to explain what they did in a session. Just as when we ask children what they did at school, they are likely to say “I don’t know” – this is in part because it is difficult for them to process verbally, in part because children sometimes feel interrogated and defensive when asked questions, and also because they want privacy. Instead, say something like “I hope you enjoyed your session today,” or “I am glad you have ________ to help you.” These open-ended statements are more likely to result in input from a child than a direct question.
DO let your child’s therapist know if you need more information about the play therapy sessions or have questions about them. They want to include you and want to understand your needs regarding frequency of feedback.
DON’T assign your child a task or agenda for the session, such as “make sure you tell the therapist about___________, or don’t forget to work on _______________.” Most of the time children eagerly look forward to their time with their therapist, and hearing from their parent what they “should” do can reduce the feeling of freedom and safety they have in a session. Instead, ask for some time with the therapist to provide your input about goals for the therapy.
You can learn more about play therapy from the Association for Play Therapy’s
website, and by talking with your child’s therapist about any questions or concerns you have.