Play therapy encourages a child to explore life events that may affect current circumstances in a manner and pace of the child’s choosing, primarily through play but also through language.
What is Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is geared toward children. No one has to teach a child to play–they simply do it. In this form of therapy, a therapist encourages a child to explore life events that may affect current circumstances in a manner and pace of the child’s choosing, primarily through play but also through language. Play allows children to express their feelings, build social skills, and relieve stress. It lets them show and respond to what they’ve experienced, such as family dynamics, cultural values, and roles.
Play therapy is most appropriate for children between the ages of three and twelve. However, it can also be used with adolescents and adults as a fresh intervention or to address presenting problems that stem from childhood.
Airmid Children’s Play Therapy Center
Airmid has served children since the inception of our practice in 2016. Four play therapists provide evidence-based therapies for children and adolescents.
Our four play therapy rooms incorporate traditional Play and Sand Tray Therapy, puppets, art, and our SMART Moves Therapy Room.
SMART stands for Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment, an innovative mental health therapy facilitated by our experienced counselors and designed for children and adolescents who have experienced complex stress and traumatic exposures, including:
- medical procedures
- emotional maltreatment
- physical abuse
- severe bullying
- witness to violence in the home or community
- impaired caregiving due to medical or mental illness, incarceration, or substance abuse
Everyone at Airmid is committed to supporting families and children in their healing journey.
SMART Moves Program
The SMART Moves Program allows the child to practice making better choices and ways to self-regulate and co-regulate with a parent. Through movement and sensory experiences, the child can find balance in their system and then process their concerns, struggles, and traumas.
The SMART Moves approach does not rely on language or a verbal narrative of the event. Through the embodied play engaging the sensory, motor, limbic, and arousal systems for self-exploration, a coherent understanding of their feelings surrounding the event emerges.
In addition, SMART Moves facilitates attachment-building between the child and caregiver. It builds strategies and self and other-regulation toolboxes that can be easily built into the daily routine at home to support the healing process further.
In this safe space, kids can practice being successful and learn what their bodies and brains need for calming and expressing larger feelings like anger, jealousy, and frustration in a safe, therapeutic space. Moreover, the SMART moves room provides the child with an internal sense of competence and builds the child’s positive sense of self.
Furthermore, SMART Moves has been listed as an Evidence-Based Practice with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness and in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.
When a child first steps into the SMART Moves Therapy Room, they first feel the 2” thick gym mats below their feet. Wall-to-wall mats fill the room with large soft pillows and yoga balls. The room has a tent, swing, ball pit, and spinners. Everything in this room has been chosen as a somatic (body) tool to support the child in working through struggles and traumatic events, expressing immense feelings, and learning healthy ways to self-regulate.
A four year-old child stood on a wide balance beam and then there it was, the trampoline. For that moment nothing else and no one else existed, just him and the trampoline. Jumping up and down and up and down several times until he spotted the ball pit. After five high jumps, he pushed himself off the trampoline and landed in a soft ball pit. Splashing around as if in a pool he dove under the ball and then projected his head through the multicolored plastic balls to announce his victorious jump into the “quicksand” and his ability to pull himself out and onto the mats.
This four year-old continued to create situations that challenged him both physically and mentally learning that he could figure out how to manage tough things like returning to school after two years of COVID isolation.
In a different session, another child entered the room, began to throw and hit the large pillows and yoga balls. She jumped on the trampoline and into the crash pad. The SMART moves therapy room enabled her to find ways to express her fear, anger and sadness over being bullied in school. The therapist was able to support her in expressing these intense feelings in a safe way. She was then able to self-regulate by swinging in the hammock swing wrapped in a weighted blanket.
This therapy builds on the natural way children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world. Toys act as children’s words, and the play helps children explore their feelings and behaviors, learn new ways to communicate with others and learn healthy ways to solve problems.
Sand Tray Therapy
This recognized therapeutic modality for children and adults helps identify and reconcile internal conflicts manifesting as anxiety and depression. The individual plays out an unconscious problem in the sand tray. As a result, this provides a way for material from the unconscious to become visible, healed, and integrated into the consciousness, thus allowing life to be lived more consciously and authentically.
How Yoga can Help
A companion service to play therapy is yoga. Yoga allows children to exercise their bodies, breath, and minds simultaneously. It also helps children manage anxiety, improve emotional regulation, boost self-esteem, increase body awareness and mindfulness, enhance concentration and memory, and develop strength and flexibility. Learn More