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DVD - Group Activities that Heal
10 CEUs DVD - Group Activities that Heal

Section 25
Play as the Language of the Child

CEUs Question 25 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Play Therapy CEU Courses
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

Counseling children requires that counselors go beyond the familiar adult counseling framework and into the world of a child. Nothing less will do than a total shift from the old paradigm of merely adapting basic adult coun­seling skills in counseling children to the new paradigm of Play Therapy which has been developed specifically for counseling with children. The new para­digm of Play Therapy allows counselors to communicate effectively with children through their natural language of play.

Modifying basic adult counseling skills to work with children requires that the child adopt the communication style that is most comfortable for the adult. To make emotional contact with children, utilization of a method of communication that meets the needs of children is necessary. Play comes naturally to children and without effort the child is capable of reasonably expressing feelings, thoughts, and concerns by the manipulation of toys and materials (AxIlne, 1947; Bettelheim, 1987; Ginott, 1961; Landreth, 1991).

Play media materials invite the child’s paiticipation and establish a natural means of communication which does not require verbal Interaction. The play of the child becomes the medium of exchange and is utilized by the counselor not only to understand the child but also to build a therapeutic relationship. (Landreth, 1983, p. 202)

Play is much more than simply a procedure to help children get ready to do something more important, such as talk. Play is a medium through which children are able to communicate fully and explore their experiences, their reactions to those experiences, and what they want or need in their lives.

The utilization of play as a communication tool enables a child to tran­scend the restrictions presented by his or her inability to understand or articulate abstract thoughts. According to Piaget (1962), play bridges the gap between concrete experience and abstract thought He also suggested that feelings are inaccessible at a verbal level until the child is approximately 11 years of age. Therefore, play provides the child with the opportunity to ex­press inner desires, feelings, problems, and anxieties. Play is described by Froebel (1903) as "the highest development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul... Children’s play is not mere sport. It is full of meaning and import" (p. 22).

In their recommendation that counselors appropriately utilize questions when working with children, Erdman and Lampe (1996) provided great de­tail about children’s possible negative responses to interrogative patterns, multiple-choice questions, and "why" questions. Although these techniques are suggested with a cautionary note, no consideration is given to eliminat­ing this procedure because of its apparent ineffectiveness. The use of simple words and concrete questions does not address the underlying difficulty that questioning a child presents, and questions of any kind place the child in a cognitive frame of reference (Piaget, 1962). Similar information can be gath­ered in a nonthreatening way, without fear of the child’s misinterpreting the counselor’s meaning, by learning to understand the meaning of children’s play. A Play Therapy approach allows the child to express how he or she interprets the world and what experiences and issues are of concern to the child (Gil, 1991; Landreth, 1993; Moustakas, 1981). Play therapy is a more direct approach than questioning, and it allows a child to express what is distressing him or her.
- Landreth, Garry, Baggerly, Jennifer & Ashley Tyndall-Lind; Beyond Adapting Adult Counseling Skills for Use with Children: The Paradigm Shift to Child-Centered Play Therapy; Journal of Individual Psychology, Fall 1999, Vol. 55, Issue 3.

Personal Reflection Exercise #11
The preceding section contained information about play as the language of a child. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 25
According to Piaget feelings are inaccessible at a verbal level until the child is approximately what age? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Test.

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