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Why Is It Important for Adults to Engage in Play Therapy?

All most kids ever want to do is play. Playing outside, inside, at grocery stores, in the car, and everywhere they go, kids make it a priority to have fun. For adults, however, play is often left on the back burner. Somewhere along the way, most of us lost our childhood priority of play to maturity, sophistication, and mountains of responsibilities. Our imaginations lay dormant as we focus on adult things like retirement plans, romantic relationships, and careers. Yet, what would happen if we brought back the priority of play? With all the pressures of adulthood, play can be seen as therapeutic. We know play therapy can be helpful for children, but adults can benefit from it, too!

What Is Play Therapy?

A publication by Materia Socio-Medica explains, “Play therapy is defined as the systematic use of a theoretical model that establishes an interpersonal process, in which trained therapists use the therapeutic power of play to help children prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth.”

The publication goes on to detail that play therapy is often used for children who have:

How Play Therapy Helps to Heal Trauma

Play therapy is effective for children because they typically have not developed the skills to be able to thoroughly discuss their feelings. As a result, therapists will incorporate therapeutic skills into normal playful activities. 

For example, a therapist may have the child draw a picture of their favorite place. While they’re drawing together, the therapist may begin to ask the child questions about their day, school, or home. The child will, ideally, answer the question very matter-of-factly and honestly because they are distracted by their drawing. As a result, they don’t usually realize that they are discussing their feelings or sharing important information with an adult. This is not done to manipulate the child, but rather to give them a safe and healthy expressive outlet. Additionally, it also allows them to release any feelings they may be holding inside.

Play therapy can help heal trauma because it slowly builds positive associations around the trauma. Even if the child realizes they are recalling traumatic events, the therapist will meet them with empathy and kindness. As a result, this can encourage the child to feel safe enough to continue sharing. This can be extremely impactful for the child, as their difficult feelings are felt with acceptance instead of shame and confusion.

Having positive memories associated with sharing complicated feelings and emotions can be a very empowering thing for a child. It gives them permission to healthily recategorize the event(s) in their brain, as well as develop healthy coping skills for the future. 

It’s important to note that the child may not share right away, as they need to establish that they will be listened to and cared for after they express their needs. Just like adults, children need to know that the listener can be trusted with their feelings and emotions.

Can Adults Participate in Play Therapy?

While there aren’t many options available to adults that are considered “play therapy,” there are different therapeutic techniques that may have similar outcomes as play therapy. It is still vital for adults to experience play, it’s just that the older we get, the more dynamic and layered the concept of “play” becomes. Play looks different for everyone and can be a very personalized event. However, if our imaginations taught us anything, it’s that the more unique the play is, the more fun it will be.

The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships specifically studied how having fun daily affected the lives of adults with type 1 diabetes. One publication found that “Daily play was linked to better mood, greater diabetes disclosure to one’s partner, greater support received from one’s partner, and greater perceived coping effectiveness with the day’s most important diabetes and general stressors.”

Additionally, the same publication also made sure to define the concept of play very purposefully, stating, “Specifically, we define play as an activity performed with a goal of amusement/fun; an enthusiastic, in-the-moment attitude; and a high degree of interaction either with the activity, itself, or with interaction partners.” Additionally, “[P]lay can take many forms (e.g., cooperative, competitive, novel, familiar, planned, spontaneous).”

How Sage Recovery Encourages Play

Here at Sage Recovery, we understand the importance of exploration and trying new things that make you feel alive, especially as adults. That’s why we make sure our master’s level clinicians are extensively trained in various therapeutic approaches, such as:

Our goal is that our innovative approaches and customizable treatment plans allow you to try new things and find fun, healthy outlets. We strive to empower clients to cultivate a holistic, healthy, sustainable lifestyle, which includes prioritizing play.

Here at Sage Recovery, we understand the importance of play in adults and how it can make the healing process so much more enjoyable. That’s why we offer so many different variations of techniques and specialties, so that you have the option to be as creative as you want to be. Whether you enjoy writing songs, physical exercise, hiking, or taking care of animals, we have something for everyone. If you don’t know what you enjoy, we can help you discover that, as well! Play and creativity are wonderful tools that can be used to heal complicated feelings that have been trapped inside for years. When you’re ready to discover yourself again, call us at (512) 306-1394