Coming to therapy is hard. Being able to identify and name thoughts and feelings is even harder. As a society, expression of thoughts and feelings is not always openly received or accepted. We worry about how what we say or do will be judged by others and if anyone will really understand. This struggle is especially true for teens. Teens are still growing up and figuring out who they are, and there is a lot of pressure on teens to communicate when they are still developing language skills. In this blog, we are going to take a look at how play therapy can benefit teens.
What is Play Therapy?
Imagine a dancer performing on stage as you sit in the audience. As you watch the movement, you begin to feel the story the dancer shares without ever hearing a word. Likewise, play opens the door to showing a counselor how you feel and eliminates the panic that can arise when responding to questions. Play engages the right hemisphere, the emotional side, of the brain. With the support of a counselor, play can integrate both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Play Therapy and Teens
When teens are asked questions like “How was your day?” or “What did you do at school?” or “What’s wrong?”, they usually respond with a grunt or shoulder shrug… Maybe if you’re lucky, an “I don’t know.” The use of play in therapy provides a way to connect with teens on an emotional level. Exploring their world through the use of mediums like sand, art, music, and games opens a door to vulnerability and removes the pressure of saying the right thing.
Let’s talk about brain development. While an adolescent brain is more developed than a child’s, it still has a long way to go before reaching full, adult brain development. When compared to an adult, teens use more of the emotional side of the brain to process data. This means teens need treatment that caters to their emotional responses and then builds their verbal skills along the way.
What Is Considered Play Therapy?
Play therapy can utilize several different mediums, including:
- Art: Drawing, Painting, Collages, Etc.
- Storytelling or Dramas
- Blocks and/or Figurines
- Board Games
At Garrett Counseling in Huntsville, AL and our other locations, we have counselors trained in the use of play therapy with teens. If you are looking for therapy for teens, contact us today to get started!
- Alabama Association for Play Therapy
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Child Development
- KidsHealth: Adolescent Brain Development
- MedlinePlus: Teen Mental Health
This article was written by Emily Tester, a mental health counselor at Garrett Counseling in Huntsville, AL. Learn more about Emily here.