e-book Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship

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They often refuse to share anything or say what they think we want to hear.

Play is children's way of exploring their issues. However sometimes children need the additional support of a trained Play Therapist to enable to them to address their issues.

ISBN 13: 9781559590174

The role of the Play Therapist is to provide a therapeutic environment which promotes positive changes in the child. Positive changes come about from the symbolic communication of the child's play and the therapeutic relationship with the Play Therapist.

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Click here for information. What can PT help with? What happens in a Play Therapy session? How does it work? Child art therapy is also often confused with play therapy and for many good reasons. Art making within the context of therapy is, however, a slightly different experience from play because it encourages the creation of a tangible product in most cases.

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Non-Verbal, Sensory-Based. By its simplest definition, art expression is a form of non-verbal communication.

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For children who may not be able to articulate thoughts, sensations, emotions or perceptions, it is one way to convey what may be difficult to express with words. It is also a sensory-based approach that allows the children to experience themselves and communicate on multiple levels—visual, tactile, kinesthetic and more—and to not only be heard [talk], but also be seen via images [art]. Growth and Development. Art expressions, particularly drawings, provide useful information on development in children, especially young clients who are 10 years or younger.


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Despite this challenge, the currently accepted stages of artistic development, especially with younger children, are still generally helpful and add valuable information not always apparent through talk therapy alone. Neurobiology continues to inform mental health professionals about why specific art-based activities, within the context of therapy, may be helpful to children.

In particular, certain sensory characteristics of art making seem to be effective in improving mood, sensory integration, and calming the body and mind, especially with children who have experienced traumatic events.


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Like play therapy, art therapy provides an opportunity to express metaphor through art expression. In fact, one of the strengths of both approaches is their ability to encourage and enhance storytelling and narratives.

Storytelling about a drawing, painting, collage or construction does not have to be literal to be therapeutic. In fact, a child who has experienced traumatic events or is challenged by an emotional disorder may only find it possible to generate imaginative stories. With the support and guidance of the therapist, these narratives serve as a way to slowly and safely release disturbing or terrorizing experiences.

Right-Hemisphere-to-Right Hemisphere. In this sense, art therapy can be helpful in repairing and reshaping attachment through experiential and sensory means and may tap those early relational states that existed before words are dominant, allowing the brain to establish new, more productive patterns.

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Art expression, like play, adds to these positive relational experiences on multiple levels involving sensory, affective and cognitive channels of communication. This a very brief explanation of some of the reparative dynamics art therapy provides to children. But as the fields of art therapy and play therapy continue to expand knowledge about their effectiveness, the more we extend the possibilities for best practices with all children in need of help and healing.

Visit the Trauma-Informed Practices and Expressive Arts Therapy Institute for more information about expressive arts therapy with children, adults and families and educational offerings on trauma-informed expressive arts therapy. Click here for the latest Expressive Arts Therapy E-Newsletter January with links to resources, courses and article downloads on arts therapies, trauma-informed practice and more. For professional applications of art therapy, see Handbook of Art Therapy 2nd edition, Guilford Publications.