Play Therapy Techniques for Anxiety
Play therapy is often employed to assist children with anxiety and other mental health issues. Studies have demonstrated that when treating younger children (six to eight years old), Stulmaker & Ray found that 12-16 individual half-hour sessions reduced self-reported anxiety symptoms more than sessions where children colored with a counselor (Stulmaker & Ray, 2015).
Play therapy techniques can be employed to treat anxiety. These include playing with toys, role-playing, and creating art works.
Toys are often utilized in play therapy sessions to express emotions and create a safe atmosphere (Bratton, Ray & Landreth, 2008). These toys can help children work through fears, anger or other negative emotions that may be present in their life. Furthermore, they help build positive relationships and enhance communication skills with the therapist or other children present during the session.
One strategy is to let the client select their favorite toys and then let them use those objects as desired. This could be done for various reasons such as stress relief, anger release or building self-esteem (Bratton Ray et al., 2008).
Toys can be especially beneficial for younger children or those with sensory integration disorders. Physically interactive toys like blocks or dolls provide soothing comfort and give clients a sense of control over their lives.
Another way to use toys is to let the client explore a situation that causes worry or anxiety, such as an impending presentation. The therapist can then demonstrate how best to approach this scenario in order to reduce their fear and increase comfort level.
This can be an effective tool for the therapist to observe client reactions to certain circumstances and build rapport with them. It may also serve to teach clients how to regulate their emotions and act with their best interests in mind (Bratton & Ray, n.d).
Squiggles are a useful tool in play therapy, as they allow the therapist to gain insight into the client’s thinking process and how they interpret the world (Schaeffer & Cangelosi, 2016). For example, drawing random squiggles on paper might prompt clients to think of something specific or bring up memories for them. Together, therapist and client could then attempt to draw their own squiggles – an engaging exercise for both parties (Schaeffer & Cangelosi, 2018).
Puppets are a common tool in play therapy, as they can be utilized for many purposes. They may help the client and therapist get to know each other better or expose underlying family dynamics which the client feels unable to discuss openly with their therapist.
Feeling words are another useful tool in play therapy to help clients comprehend how they are feeling. They can be drawn or written on paper and the client can place poker chips on each feeling to demonstrate how much of each sensation they possess.