Headstart for Life

Let’s Talk About Group Play Therapy

Hi there! Welcome back to HeadStart for Life’s blog, Beyond Therapy!

Play Therapy is usually done individually but today we wanted to discuss Group Play Therapy.

What is Group Play Therapy?

The Group Play Therapy at HeadStart for Life, provides children the opportunity to learn and practice, in a small scale, social skills of real life situations. Through play, they will be able to try out new communication ways with peers and therapist, watch and learn from others interactions; they will have a safe environment to explore and express themselves in a social context while keeping the boundaries of safety. Children are 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/her choices in session (within safety boundaries), using reflecting responding toward the child, and creating trustful relations. However, all these are done 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, or in other social situations such as at home with parents and siblings.

Group Play Therapy sessions at HeadStart for Life are conducted in groups of 3-4 children, together with the facilitation of a trained therapist. The children will be using their natural communication language – playing. During each session, the therapist will encourage them to articulate and express themselves individually and as a group, using a selection of therapeutic tools, including: art, sand play, music instruments, drama & role-play, puppets & masks and more. These tools are parts of the Play Therapy tool-kit.

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Advantages of Group Play Therapy

The advantages of being part of a group are significant, in which it allows 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 about themselves in a group setting; they can observe how others interact (between group members and with the therapist), and from this experience they learn how to cope, react and regulate. It also gives them an opportunity to perceive the regard of the therapist and other children toward them. For some children, the interaction with the therapist is less threatening and can be perceived to be safer, due to the presence of other children, whereby the focus is not individual.

The interactions in the unique situation of Group Play Therapy allow children the opportunity to both receive and give help, which promotes self-healing and improves self-concept.

In addition, taking part in activities with others support children to muster the courage to attempt similar and new activities. Furthermore, observing others and discovering that peers have difficulties too can help children feel that they are not alone, which reduces barriers and increases self – confidence.

The group setting also promotes taking responsibility in social situations and assists in fostering a sense of belonging. These help to anchor the therapy experience to reality.

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Who can benefit from Group Play Therapy?

Group Play Therapy, (now offered at Headstart for Life) is ideal for children from 4 to 14 years old. It can help children who show emotional and social difficulties, as well as those manifesting behavioural issues such as the following:

  • Emotional and social difficulties:
    – Over-shyness, social anxiety, separation anxiety, feelings of rejection and isolation, selective-mutism
    – Difficulty understanding social situations, inappropriate reactions in-group or class, low interpersonal communication skills and general difficulty in interacting with others.
  • Conduct and Behavioral issues:
    – Aggressiveness, prone to out-burst or tantrums; bullied or bullying others, over-attached to 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

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To sum it up, 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 have tremendous impact on the emotional well-being, academic performance, appropriate behaviour, and improved self-concept and confidence of children.

How to get started with Group Play Therapy at HeadStart for Life?

  1. If any concern had been raised, contact us at HeadStart for life, ask for Group Play Therapy.
    The therapist will meet the parent to hear their concerns and discuss desired outcomes from therapy.
  2. Parent (and teacher if possible) will be asked to fill in a “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire” (SDQ) to demonstrate current difficulties and pro-social behaviour of the child.
  3. The child will be placed in a group with similar age peers.
  4. Conduct sessions: 6 to 8 sessions will be conducted.
  5. A follow up review will be made with parents upon end of sessions to estimate and monitor changes.

We hope that you have learned more about Group Play Therapy in this article and please do not hesitate to leave your comment below or contact us should you have questions.

 

"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Hagit

Hagit is an experienced Play Therapy trainee, with a solid counselling background. She holds a Masters in Psychology and is practicing in Therapeutic Play, she is a member of "Play Therapy International" (UK). She has a strong passion to work with children and families in empowering them and improving their well-being through a firm belief in the power of healing that exists inside each one of us. She is a proud mother of 3 children who enjoys quality time with family, music, theater and sports.

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