Play is children’s way to communicate. Children do not have the cognitive ability to extensively communicate verbally like adults do. This is why play therapy is such a helpful way for children to solve their inner conflicts!
Not only is play therapy a helpful intervention in individual therapy, but it is helpful in group therapy as well! When I first heard about group therapy (way before any graduate training in therapy!), I thought of group therapy as an AA meeting where adults gathered and talked about their difficulties. Boy was I wrong! Group therapy isn’t simply children sitting around in a circle and chatting, but playing as well!
Play in group therapy can help children enhance their self-awareness, self-regulation, social communication, empathy, adaptability, and overall social skills. I personally think that the most helpful thing about play in a group setting is that it gives children an opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment with peers.
So how does play in group therapy work? At the clinic I am currently located, we run our social skills group with a large play component. We generally start the group by teaching a social skill and then practice the social skills through play. I personally like to especially reflect on the skill that we are learning that day. For example, if we focused our skill activity on sharing and taking turns, I would make a point to notice group members that were sharing and taking turns.
Similarly to individual play therapy, the group leaders reflect (i.e. you feel mad that your friend took the toy), track (i.e. I see Bobby playing with the trucks), and set limits and boundaries (i.e. one of the things that we can’t do is take the sand out of the sandtray) within the session. To learn more about setting limits and boundaries in play therapy, check out the post How to Set Limits and Boundaries in Play Therapy .
One of the things that is different about group play therapy that I really love is that group leaders reflect on what they are seeing in interactions with one another. For example, “I see Jimmy and Johnny playing nicely together over by the dollhouse” or “Mary looks curious about what Joey is playing with.”
I personally run two play therapy groups right now and absolutely love them. Comment below if you would like to hear more about running play therapy groups.
Until next time, Play On!