How Play therapy can help children heal

Play therapy is an evidence-based practice designed to helps a child build a greater sense of self. Erin Hassall gets to play on the job. A lot. Hassall, the services manager for the Family Support Center in Spencerport Central School District, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and […]

When Hassall started at the Center 10 years ago, she was one of two counselors who provided short- and long-term counseling and relied primarily on talk therapy. That method works for junior high and high school students who are older, but elementary children are different. Hassall recalls an early encounter that permanently changed how she interacted with younger children.

“I was trying to do talk therapy with a kindergartner, but he just wanted to play,” she says. “It was my first year working with elementary students and I felt ill-equipped.”

It’s been recognized that elementary students lack the vocabulary and maturity to verbally articulate what’s bothering them. At these ages, children use play to express any difficulties they are facing.

Hassall saw only one solution: Become a registered play therapist. Getting the title required hours of dedication. She had to attend numerous college classes, participate in multiple workshops and hire a supervisor to oversee her play therapy hours.