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3 Neurobiological Reasons Why Play Therapy Works


You know that your child is going to play therapy but you don’t know how it works. Or, you think your child might benefit from play therapy – but you aren’t sure. Luckily, neurobiology – a branch of science focusing on the nervous system - can help explain how play therapy helps your child. Interested? Here’s three reasons why play therapy promotes healing by changing the way the brain functions:

1. Play therapy’s focus on relationships and experience creates positive changes in the brain.

Play therapists work hard to build relationships with their clients and help them process painful situations through play experiences.

The brain is plastic, meaning that it's constantly changing. Play therapy alters the way that the brain is structured -- rewiring the child's developing brain and promoting healing.

Great, you're thinking, but how does it work? When a child experiences trauma or pain, a recipe for how to respond to such trauma is put into the body. If a different outcome occurs after a trauma recipe is reactivated, there is a 'reconsolidation window' of time where brain circuits are open to change. Through play, the play therapist helps the child change the way their brain processes previous trauma experiences in a safe, emotionally-regulating environment.

Play is ideal for this because implicit (unexpressed) information about trauma is not accessible through words.

2. Play therapy helps process emotional responses in the brain when cognition (thinking) can't.