My son does play therapy once per week to help him with issues that are causing him anxiety. Its been about 3 months -- and sometimes the results are better than others. What we have noticed is that he is not burying his feelings as much as he used to -- and is talking about them-- but that has also caused some dips in his behavior on occasion as well.
I am going to give it another 2 months-- if I don't see real dramatic improvement then I am going to go back to the drawing board.
Our child suffers from severe anxiety. When she was in Grade 2, an art therapist was hired to help her in the school. The therapist worked on social skills (she suffered from social anxiety) using art as the medium. She would model (perhaps using a paper bag puppet) how our child would handle a specific situation, would observe our child during free time and then debrief her after recess time. She worked wonders and our child advanced so far in such a short time. So, I suppose it depends upon the therapist (and child) how much is accomplished in this short time. If I remember correctly, the therapist came to the school twice a week for several months (it was expensive though). As for the "after school scenario", I would question the purpose - especially since social skills is one of the goals of the therapy.
Play therapy is used with younger children to alleviate behavioral and emotional problems through the language of play. Since younger kiddos cannot generally verbalize what they are experiencing, how they express difficulties comes out in different play themes. There are different theories as to how to approach the play therapy. Therapists can be non-directive or child-centered meaning they allow the child to take the lead and the therapist follows them and comments on their behavior, reflecting what emotions are coming out in the play. For example, if a child is playing in the kitchen area with food items they might reenact something that happens at dinnertime, such as frustration about vegetables, the therapist then says outloud, you do not like eating vegetables, and then the child responds and a dialogue is started WHILE the play continues. Other clincians are more directive and will guide the play. Suggesting the child play with certain items and introducing themes which are areas of concern. But whatever the approach, it is NOT just play for play's sake. There are specific toys and activities in the room that have been designed to faciliate expressiveness in the child. Children can work through many difficulties while participating in play therapy and doing it outside of school hours is quite the norm. The issues your child has at school and socially will certainly come out during the play with the therapist. In terms of how often you meet with the therapist, that too depends on the clinician. Some will meet briefly with parents each time to only meeting as needed to meeting once a month. Don't forget you are the consumer and have the right to ask these questions and request to meet more if you like. Also, you may want to ask about Filial therapy. This is where the parents are taught how to do play therapy with their own children. Hope this helps..
Thanks. We had the first session yesterday. I was in the room for the first 10 minutes and then my son said he felt fine if mom waited outside. From what I saw the therapist let my son lead, but I dont know what happened after words or if that may change.
I wish she would observe him in school but she does not do this. So I will give it through the summer as I dont expect change over night.
My son went through psycho-educational testing at Columbia U here in NY however from what the therapist said that evaluation was not comprehensive and could not rule out certian disorders. So, since he is having difficulty in school we have decided to do see a behavorial developmental specialist (MD) and I believe that their evaluation is for ADD, ADHD, Sensory integration, etc. I really dont think my son has any of these but we must rule them out. Next year he is going to have a very good teacher and by then I hope he will have a sense of security and stability as well.
Just a comment - you said that your son has "anxiety in school and social issues". Also, that the developmental specialist is evaluating for ADD, ADHD, sensory integration among other issues. Many children who suffer from anxiety have co-morbid issues as ADD/ADHD, DIS (Disorder of Sensory Integration) and depression. But, when the anxiety is lessened to a comfortable amount, the above problems also lessen as anxiety can mimic the above disorders. So, if the specialist "sees" some of the above issues, do not be overly concerned - they tend often to be "part and parcel" of anxiety disorders. Dealing with the anxiety (of which social issues is a part) will usually solve all of the other problems - but it will take time, a lot of time. Best wishes...
I know its going to take time. We are meeting with the Behav. Specialist later this month. I dont see ADD/ADHD or any other disorder b/c he only has major issues in school with his untrained and unstructured teacher. You cant have a disorder in only one place. BUT I may be wrong. Regardless I REFUSE to medicate (should they suggest) a 5.5 yr old child who is in Kindergarten and producing 1st & 2nd grade work. Thanks for the advice.