Group Play Therapy is an extension of the Therapeutic Play method.
However, it differs from Individual Play Therapy and might be more beneficial for some children with social and emotional difficulties.
What is Group Play Therapy?
The Group Play Therapy provides children with the opportunity to learn and practice, on a small scale, social skills of real-life situations. Through play, they will be able to try out new communicative ways with peers and therapists, watch and learn from others’ interactions, and have a safe environment to explore and express themselves in a social context while keeping within the boundaries of safety. Children will be able to examine, modify, and enhance their self-concept.
Group Play Therapy is an extension of the individual Therapeutic Play intervention and relies on similar principles, such as: accepting the child and his or her choices in the sessions (within safety boundaries), using reflective responding towards the child, and creating trustful relations. However, all of this is instead performed in a small group.
The Group Play objective is to assist and empower children with social and emotional difficulties. These difficulties may be observed at school, with friends, in social situations, or at home (with parents and siblings).
Group Play Therapy sessions are conducted in groups of 3-4 children, together with the facilitation of a trained therapist. The children use their natural communication language – Playing. During each session, the therapist encourages them to articulate and express themselves individually and as a group, using a selection of therapeutic tools, including art, sand play, musical instruments, drama & role-play, puppets & masks and more. These tools are a part of the Play Therapy tool-kit.
Advantages of Group Play Therapy
The advantages of taking a part of a group are significant and allow each child to observe, learn, experience, and practice new ways of being and interacting with others.
Research has shown that children can gain a better understanding of themselves in a group setting; they can observe how others interact (between group members and with the therapist), and from this experience, they can learn how to cope, react and regulate. They will also perceive the regard of the therapist, and other children, towards themselves, which may give them insight. For some children, the interaction with the therapist will be less threatening and perceived safer, due to the presence of other children and the focus not on one individual.
The interactions in the unique situation of Group Play Therapy will allow children the opportunity to both receive and give help, which promotes their self-healing and improves self-concept.
In addition, taking part in activities with others will support children to master the courage to attempt similar and new activities.
Furthermore, observing others and discovering that their peers have difficulties too can help children feel they are not alone, which will reduce barriers and increase confidence.
The group setting can also promote taking responsibility in social situations and assist in fostering a sense of belonging; this will help to anchor the therapy experience into reality.
Who can benefit from Group Play Therapy?
Group Play Therapy is ideal for children from 5 to 14 years old.
Group Play Therapy can assist children who show emotional and social difficulties, as well as manifesting behavioral issues.
Examples of difficulties a child might have are:
- Emotional and social difficulties:
Over-shyness, social anxiety, separation anxiety, feelings of rejection and isolation, selective-mutism, not understanding social situations, non-appropriate reaction in-group or class, low interpersonal communication skills and general difficulties in interacting with others.
- Conduct and Behavioral issues:
Aggressiveness, prone to outbursts or tantrums, bullied or bullying others, and over-attached to the teacher in school.
Group Play Therapy is proven to be efficient in:
- Improving social attitude
- Improving self-concept
- Improving leadership skills
- Reducing anxiety
- Improving learning abilities
- Improving reading ability and grades
- Increasing non-verbal IQ
It is often effective to bring together a small group of children who may have similar difficulties, as they benefit from sharing and exploring those difficulties together through the therapeutic support of a Play Therapist.
The child-centered Group Play Therapy experience can thus have a tremendous impact on the emotional well-being, academic performance, and appropriate behavior, as well as improving self-concept and confidence.
How to get started with Group Play Therapy?
- If any concerns have been raised, contact us and inquire regarding Group Play Therapy.
The therapist will meet the parent to hear their concerns and discuss desired outcomes from therapy.
- Parent (and teacher if possible) will be asked to fill in a “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire” (SDQ) to demonstrate current difficulties and pro-social behaviors of the child.
- The child will be placed in a group with similar age peers.
- Conduct sessions: 8-10 sessions will be conducted;
- A follow-up review will be made with parents at the end of sessions to estimate and monitor changes.