Evidence based child therapy in O’Fallon MO

Child Counseling

Evidence based therapy for kids who need individual counseling.

Explorer

Sometimes a child needs time alone with a trained professional. Deborah Woods, National Board-Certified Counselor offers play therapy for children ages 3-10.

Parent coaching supports parents in their journey.

Adventurer

Sometimes a parent needs to know how to support their child at home. Deborah Woods, NCC offers Playtime Power,  an online home learning program that gives parents access to the evidence based child-centered play therapy skills she’s used to help kids for the past 38 years.

Child therapy and parent coaching works in combination.

Trailblazer

Sometimes a family needs both. Deborah Woods, NCC offers a combination of her Playtime Power, online home learning program AND time with an experienced professional in the playroom.

Research and smiles prove child therapy works.

Who benefits from play therapy?

Evidence-based play therapy can help kids and teens, parents and caregivers. Studies show that play therapy is effective with children of all ages, including infants, toddlers, and pre-school and school-aged kids. To begin with, play therapy is beneficial for children who’ve experienced trauma, loss, or hard times.

In addition, sixty years of research shows child-centered play therapy decreases anxiety, depression, trauma symptoms, ADHD symptoms, and behavior issues including acting out and aggression. Besides reducing troubling symptons, child-centered play therapy improves academic achievement, receptive and expressive language skills, self-esteem, social skills, and emotional adjustment.

What’s more, when parents and teachers get involved, play therapy can improve parent-child relationships while reducing relationship stress between kids and their parents or teachers.

Most importantly, in my 38 years as a counselor, I’ve seen thousands of families benefit from play therapy. The biggest piece of evidence for me, is how child-centered play therapy has helped my own family.

What is play therapy?

First, play therapy is a way of helping families that uses play to support kids in expressing the thoughts and feelings they can’t communicate in talk therapy. Because children enjoy playing, they’re willing to engage in the change process.

Next, what you need to know is that, play therapy is a broad category that includes more than a dozen differing and sometimes contradictory treatment philosophies, techniques, and methods.

What most play therapy practitioners can agree on is that, simply having some toys or games in a counseling or therapy office, or encouraging clients to draw or play with blocks as they talk with a therapist, is not play therapy.

Evidence based problem solving in O'Fallon, MO.
Evidence shows that medical play treats medical trauma for children.

What is child-centered play therapy?

Specifically, child-centered play therapy is a well-established set of beliefs and practices that use the beneficial powers of play to help prevent or resolve psychological, emotional and social difficulties to achieve optimal growth and development.

Wow! That’s a mouthful. What it means is that from the time Virginia Axline first put together her ideas about how to work with kids using play, until now, there’s been a lot of work done to figure out what works and what doesn’t. With all that effort and study, you know that it’s a proven approach that gets results.

At this point in our conversation, it’s worth mentioning that results can vary depending on a counselor’s qualifcation and experience, the severity of the problem, and the number of play therapy sessions.

 

How does child-centered play therapy work?

Child centered play therapy starts with a belief system. After 38 years of practicing child-centered play therapy, I believe more now than ever before, that kids find their best answers when I trust them to take active leadership in the playroom. Like me, you might be surprised to discover that kids find answers in play therapy that are a right fit for their world with more lasting and deeper impact than anything an adult could impose of them from the outside.

After the belief, comes the practice. I start by creating a safe and supportive place for kids to be themselves. Next, I avoid doing many of the things that adults do naturally in everyday interactions with kids. Little things adults do without any harmful intent, can get in the way of a child’s leadership and decision making in the playroom.

Then, as a child explores the toys in the playroom, following their own ideas and imagination, I respond to their spontaneous behaviors and the things they say in a way that inspires their growth. I don’t say the things adults usually say so that kids can figure things out for themselves.

While I’m responding, I stay focused on keeping kids responsible for their growth and believing in their capacity to direct their progress. I regulate my own emotions and focus on responding with caring and respect.

Throughout the play session, I look for the ways kids communicate in their play, what they believe about themselves and about the world around them. I comment on what I see to increase their self-awareness. I look for changes in their play over the weeks. I comment on the feelings I see them experiencing to help increase their ability to regulate their emotions.

Because safety is necessary for learning and growth, I set the occasional limit to keep everyone in the room safe when and if a child’s impulse poses a danger.

I do my part and kids do theirs. With time, kids gain self-awareness, self-control and self-regulation skills. Behavioral problems decrease. Mental health and social skills increase. While all that work is happening, we have a whole bunch of fun because fun work is the best work.

The evidence proves the play is the therapy for kids.
Research and smiles prove child therapy works.

Can child-centered play therapy be harmful?

Child-centered play therapy is a safe and non-invasive form of therapy. However, as with any kind of therapy, there is a small risk that play therapy could be harmful if not conducted appropriately.

 In particular, if a therapist is working with a traumatized child and is not properly trained, they could retraumatize the child. For this reason, I’ve been trained in working with kids and trauma. In addition to extensive training over the years, I’ve had a great deal of experience working with children who have experienced unspeakable trauma in their lives. I discovered, in my training, that it is important to avoid asking the child leading questions. Traumatized children may answer what they think someone wants to hear rather than what actually happened for a variety of reasons. Child-centered play therapy prevents this potential problem because I’m trained to keep the child in the lead and avoid asking questions.

 Overall, child-centered play therapy is a safe and effective form of treatment for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma when conducted by a properly trained and qualified professional.

 

Parent-child Therapy

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Evidence based problem solving in O'Fallon, MO.
Evidence shows that medical play treats medical trauma for children.

How can parents help?

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Teachers and play therapy

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The evidence proves the play is the therapy for kids.

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