Is something troubling my child?
Parents and carers often worry when a child has a problem that causes them to be sad, disruptive, rebellious, unable to cope or inattentive. You may be concerned about a child’s development, eating or sleeping patterns and how they are getting along with family, friends and at school.
Every child is unique and special but sometimes they experience problems with feelings or behaviours that cause disruption to their lives and the lives of those around them.
Some parents and carers often delay seeking help because they worry that they will be blamed for their children’s behaviour. Feeling responsible for a child’s distress or problems is a normal part of caring. The fact that you have the commitment to start addressing the difficulty is a significant part of helping your child.
Information on Play Therapy for Parents and Carers
Play Therapy helps children understand muddled feelings and upsetting events that they haven’t had the chance to sort out properly. Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, as adult therapy usually expects, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling interrogated or threatened.
For further information please read our What is Play Therapy page.
Why Use A BAPT Registered Play Therapist®
A BAPT Registered Play Therapist® is a qualified mental health professional who has had intensive university and clinical training accredited by the British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT). Most BAPT Registered Play Therapists® are graduates who have already trained to work with children. For example, they may already be qualified as social workers, teachers, nursery nurses, teaching assistants and psychologists.
A BAPT Registered Play Therapist® must have a clear knowledge of the following:
- Child-centred Play Therapy
- Child development
- The developmental process and functions of play
- Developmental psycho-pathology, including attachment theory, mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, disability and trauma
- Ecological, systems and social constructionist theories of society
- Integrative Play Therapy methods
- Working with parents and carers
- Relevant legislation and policy
- Anti-discriminatory practice
- Contemporary research and practice
To be a full member of BAPT a Play Therapist will have:
- Completed Masters level (MSc or MA) Play Therapy training (accredited by BAPT)
- A current enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS)
- Public liability indemnity insurance
- On-going personal therapy (optional, after qualification)
- Clinical supervision of their Play Therapy practice
- Commitment to the BAPT Ethical Basis for Good Practice in Play Therapy
If you are using the services of BAPT Registered Play Therapist® please ensure that you perform your own due diligence.
Timing of Play Therapy
There are times when it is unhelpful to start Play Therapy. Play Therapy can give children the opportunity to explore their deepest and most traumatic feelings and experiences. As such, it is not appropriate to expose them to this if they are not in a situation whereby people around them can keep their physical body and their powerful emotions safe.
It is also important to note that Play Therapy can also result in children’s behaviour being more intense away from the therapy sessions and can also result in them regressing to earlier developmental stages. It is crucial that the people around the child have stability in their own resources to be sensitive and support the child in what could be a very challenging time.
Examples of when it is not appropriate to start Play Therapy include:
- When the child remains at risk of harm
- When the child’s carers lack stability in their own presentation and lack an effective support network around them
- When the child’s environment is in a period of transition, i.e., moving school, house, caregivers.
What happens in a Play Therapy Session?
Play Therapy normally takes place in a private, child-friendly and confidential setting where the Play Therapist sees the child on a one-to-one basis.
Consistency is key in the development of a trusting therapeutic relationship. There will be practical agreements made to support this. The Play Therapist will meet the child on the same day, at the same time and in the same place each week with the same play materials.
The Play Therapist’s role is to enter the child’s world, to follow and track their play, reflecting their feelings and emotions. This play is non-directive and child-centred, allowing the child to lead the way in their play and to choose materials and activities as they wish without having to provide verbal explanations. The non-directive Play Therapy technique provides a child with confidence and helps them to build trust in their Play Therapist and themselves.
During play, the child has an opportunity to express deeper thoughts, ideas and wishes which allows the Play Therapist to gain valuable insights into how they experience their world. Therefore, through the Play Therapy relationship, the child is able to make sense of their life experiences and to express difficult feelings through their play.
Generally, the specific details of the therapy sessions will remain confidential between the Play Therapist and the child. Parents/carers and professionals will not be given weekly feedback and it is important that the child is not pressured into talking about what they have been doing in the sessions. This promotes the child’s feelings of trust with the therapist and the safety of the therapy space.
Sharing Information about Play Therapy Sessions
There is one clear reason why specific details would be disclosed to other parties immediately – where there is a concern about a risk to the child or others. This safeguarding exception will be made clear to the child, parents and any relevant professional before Play Therapy commences.
The other occasion when information will be shared is during pre-agreed review meetings and any formal reports. On these occasions the general themes and progress of therapy will be discussed. Again, everyone will know about this beforehand, including the child.
If parents/carers or other professionals have any worries or concerns, they should contact the Play Therapist to arrange a time to discuss this away from the child.
Why is the therapeutic relationship so important?
The therapeutic relationship that develops between your child and their Play Therapist is very important. Your child must feel comfortable, safe and understood. This type of trusting environment makes it easier for the child to express his/her thoughts and feelings and to use the therapy in a useful way. It is also crucial that your child knows you are supporting the process.
What are the prices for Play Therapy?
Children are individual and their therapeutic requirement will be different from another child, so every therapeutic plan is unique and individually tailored to a child’s needs. The costs may vary from one Play Therapist to another, depending on their level of expertise, other therapeutic interventions they offer, as well as needing to cover venue costs, insurance, registration and business costs.
The cost per session, includes the additional time needed for setting up, tidying up, preparing resources and note writing.
Additional charges may apply to parent reviews, travel, room hire, meetings around the child, reports or other required services agreed with the therapist.
Please contact your local BAPT Registered Play Therapist® for more information.
What can Parents/Carers do to help?
You are very important in supporting your child through the process.
- Be consistent and encouraging to your child about attending sessions regularly.
- Resist the urge to ask your child what they did, as this will put pressure on them to comment on something they may have difficulty understanding themselves.
- Please don’t ask your child to ‘be good’ or check they have been. Therapy is not about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and your child must feel free to express ‘bad’ feelings in an uncensored way.
- Don’t insist that your child tell certain things: it is their time and they must feel free to express themselves at their own pace. Instead tell your concerns to the Play Therapist on a separate occasion.
- Play can be messy and it is helpful if your child can wear old clothes to minimise their anxiety about this.
During any therapeutic intervention behaviour may appear to get worse before it gets better – please tell your child’s Play Therapist if you have any concerns. Please also feel free to ask your child’s Play Therapist any questions throughout the process.
Finding a BAPT Registered Therapist®
If you feel that a child you know may benefit from Play Therapy, or you are interested in building connections with Play Therapists in your local area, please visit: