On Your Mind: Play during therapy

What are the benefits of using toys, music and art in my child’s therapy sessions?

Something parents don’t often realize is that a child’s brain is not fully developed. The frontal lobe – the part of the brain that controls one’s ability to reason, problem solve and recognize consequences based on current actions – does not fully form until we’re in our 20s. That’s why kids don’t understand and communicate in the same way adults do.

Since most children (depending on age and intellect) can’t sit still and have a conversation like most adults, therapy should be tailored to what they can do. Using toys, music and art can be one of the most effective types of treatment for children from age’s birth to 18, with almost any identified problem. Play in all varieties acts as a child’s natural form of communication.

Through play, children express their fears, concerns, desires and it can help them work through issues such as abuse, divorce, or depression. Toys, music and art act as the words the child uses to create “their” story.

Keep in mind every child is different, so a child may not benefit from the same types of treatment that others do. But more often than not, if you provide a child with the right tools to communicate, that child will open up and talk.

This “On Your Mind” segment is provided by Caitlin Forrest, LMSW, a therapist at Methodist Family Health’s january writer1Counseling Clinic, 74 W. Sunbridge Dr., in Fayetteville, where the phone is (479) 582-5565. Caitlin is currently being trained in Play Therapy and will be a certified play therapist this summer.

Methodist Family Health is a nonprofit organization that provides behavioral and mental health services to children under 18 and their families all across in Arkansas. The organization has been serving families and youth for more than 114 years, beginning as an orphanage in 1899. Today, Methodist Family Health has all levels of care, ranging from outpatient counseling clinics to residential treatment centers to an inpatient behavioral hospital and an extensive staff of trained therapists and mental health professionals. To find out more about Methodist Family Health, call 501.661.0720 or 501.866.3388 toll free or visit www.methodistfamily.org.