Children face emotional challenges in life, much in the same way as adults, but because they have not fully developed, many children are unable to talk about what they feel. The younger the child, the more limited their ability to use words to process their emotions and make sense of things that have happened. Instead, children use the language of symbols while they play to understand what they feel, think, and how to relate to the world in which they live. Lighthouse specializes in play and expressive therapy in a warm, safe environment where children can process, integrate and release emotions, memories, and traumas that may be creating difficulty in their lives.
Play therapy for children is an appropriate treatment for all challenges because the focus in therapy is always on the whole person of the child as opposed to their behaviour. This style of expressive therapy is a process of connecting to one's true self and becoming more regulated. Research and experience show that this treatment has been successful with concerns such as:
anxiety and worries
withdrawal, sadness, depression
aggression, acting out
difficulties with impulse control
tantrums, uncontrollable emotions
distractibility, school challenges, adhd
trauma (for example: car accidents, abuse, neglect, injury)
grief and loss
behaviours or anxiety associated with autism spectrum disorders
hard to diagnose challenging behaviour
The way that we often notice that children are experiencing difficulty is by changes in their behaviour and how well they manage their emotions. There are sometimes changes in mood, eating, sleeping, nightmares, new fears of things that were previously accepted, or the child may show clinginess or have separation anxiety. Most children do not have the ability to use words to explain but they are able communicate how they are feeling, what they have experienced and what is affecting them using the language of play. Through play, children make sense of past experiences, practice difficult current circumstances, and try out solutions for the future with toys and expressive activities. Play is the language of children and a play therapist is specially trained to work with children using the symbolic language of play.
Therapy can be an important part of change and healing for a child but what is often more important is that child's relationship and interaction with the people closest to them, their family. The child's ability to heal and grow is increased when change also takes place among family members. The family may learn new ways of relating and new ways to communicate and respond to one another. Parents and siblings are often a powerful and important part of a child's therapeutic experience.