The idea of “play” is usually conceived as
the opposite of the concept of “work” and therefore it makes frivolous,
insignificant and casual associations in one’s mind.  People find it
“childish” and pay no attention. 
This is because plays are for children and they eventually grow out of
this unnecessary habit once they become adults…

When you see it this way you may find it a bit far fetched to hear
that play -something that has no value from the adult’s perspective- has
actually a great deal of significance for humanity just as that of language,
culture and technology.  Not only do the
scientists hold play on a par with such serious contenders, but they also claim
that none of the other developments would have been possible had it not been
for play.  Do you think those scientists
are taking it too far?  Why is it that
those serious grown men take play so seriously? 
In this article I, too, will stick to the seriousness aspect of the
subject by discussing the pros and cons of playing and why and as to what
features it is attributed to such significance and how the therapeutic aspect
of play is employed through the Play Therapy approach.       

Play has the one feature that both distinguishes it from many
other behaviors and makes us recognize it easily.   It is that it does not apparently serve any
purpose.   The reason I say “apparently”
is that the children who play do not aim to achieve any particular end result
by engaging in this activity, but rather, they use it as a means to discharge
their energy, to express themselves, to cope with difficulties, to make sense
of the things they have just learned or experienced, to master their behaviors,
to maintain relationships, to recognize their skills or perform a few of the
above simultaneously.   We see little
children play when they grab objects and take them to their mouths or move them
tentatively, however when they are older we see them use such objects as if
they were utensils or cars, and assume role playing as if they were mothers or
doctors etc.   Another play that we
usually see in older children is running, climbing, hustling which require a
good deal of physical activity.  In other
words, one sees play appear in different forms throughout a child’s development
and it serves for a child to express his/her feelings and problems in the same
way an adult would speak his/her problems. Every
play is also a door that opens for establishing communication with the child.
Play therapists establish communication with the
child thanks to that very door that opens through a play and hear the toys as
if they were words uttered by the child and listen to the play as if it was the
language of the child.  

Just as it provides the aforementioned
benefits to the soundly developing children, the play also bears a therapeutic
value for the children experiencing emotional or behavioral problems.   Play therapy aims at curing children of
their problems through such therapeutic features of the play.  By employing various techniques, play therapy
helps children express themselves in the most open and comfortable manner and
cope with such problems by “playing”.   Studies made in this field show that Play
Therapy has a wide range of application including children suffering from
sexual abuse, delayed physical development, behavioral and attachment
disorders. 

Sometimes parents are not convinced about getting help from a
therapist for just playing, they may think that “He is already playing
games at home and school!  Does he have
to play here as well?” Although playing is a natural and spontaneous process
for children, when it comes to helping the child cope with a problem though play,
such help should be given by the specialists trained in Play Therapy.    However easy it may seem, this is, in fact,
a very complicated process.  A play
therapist assumes a very different role than that of a counselor, teacher or
parent in the playroom.  Although the
therapist may appear to be dancing to the child’s tune in the playroom, he/she
is actively engaged in a session with the child that requires alertness,
sensitivity, correctly analyzing and assessing the things that child do or
say.  The thing that brings about change
is the relationship established with the play and its use by the
therapist.  For this reason, the
effectiveness of the therapy hinges on its application and assessment by the
specialists trained in Play Therapy. 

Specialists that wish to work with children through play complete
their theoretical and applied supervised Play Therapy training in order to
achieve such competency prior to launching their application in this particular
field. For this purpose, our institute has launched a one year Play Therapy
training course intended for the professionals seeking to specialize in this
field in an effort to raise more play therapists and to cure the children of their
problems by “playing”. The theoretical courses instructed by Prof. Dr. Ferhunde
Öktem, Prof. Dr. Bengi Semerci and Doç. Dr. Sait Uluç and the Play Therapy
sessions applied under supervision will cover a schedule that will last well
until June. 

 

Clinical
Psychologist  Işın Şanlı, M.A. 

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