Play therapyHowever hard it is to get adults to “talk out” their feelings, it’s far more difficult to do the same thing with children.

Youngsters may not have developed any language skills let alone an adequate vocabulary before they are exposed to aspects of the real world for which they and their families require help from mental health professionals.

The origins of child therapy usually go back to Anna Freud in Vienna and Melanie Klein in Berlin in the first half of the 20th century. Both women used play therapy as a means to understanding and healing what they believed to be a complex time during which children understood pain and suffering.

Klein saw the child’s play in therapy as similar to an adult’s free associations and therefore a window into even very young children’s unconscious, particularly surrounding experiences of abandonment, envy, and rage.

Since Klein’s time a host of research has shown play therapy is effective for children as young as 2-years-old up to their teens.

It is frequently used in cases of anxiety and related symptoms, grief, trauma, adjusting to family turmoil such as divorce, coping with illness and treatments, phobias, working better in education, managing anger or coming to terms with learning disability of physical handicap.

So how do you know whether your child needs therapy – especially when they’re not able to communicate well?

The basic rule is to try to understand whether what they’re going through may be helped by seeing a professional child therapist. Early intervention is always going to reap rewards and a well-trained therapist will soon tell you if your child doesn’t need help.

General symptoms to act on include:

  • Those which persist over several weeks
  • Those which interfere with their normal functioning and the normal functioning of your family
  • You feel angry, exhausted or disappointed a lot of the time over your child’s behaviour
  • Others who you trust have expressed concern or your child has actually expressed concern

Specific symptoms which should raise alarm bells include:

  • Problems with eating, sleeping, nightmares which don’t go away, fatigue, apathy or extreme weight loss or gain with no medical basis or physical complaints such as headaches or stomach aches with no distinguishable cause
  • Excessive difficulties with separation
  • A consistently (and persistently) sad or melancholy mood, a decrease in self-esteem, constant rudeness and excessive lying
  • Disinterest in friends, trouble getting along with peers, deteriorating school performance and difficulty concentrating
  • The new appearance of agitation and extreme or unrealistic fears/phobias
  • Excessive or public masturbation
  • New or extreme accident proneness
  • Aggressive behaviour toward self or others and risky or acting out behaviour (such as lighting fires)
  • Heavy drinking, drug use or stealing
  • The appearance of obsessive or compulsive rituals (such as hand washing or pulling out hair)
  • A preoccupation with death or the voicing of a wish to die

The Robert Street Clinic has a number of clinicians who are specially trained to provide therapy to children, adolescents and familiesContact us if you have any questions or call 09 973 5950 for more information.