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Often when people hear that a child is going to participate in play therapy, they think that this just means that someone is going to play with a child and they are not sure how this will help a child that may be having some behavioral or emotional issues. Child-Centered Play Therapy is a therapeutic modality used with children ages 2 to 12. Children engaged in play therapy often learn pro-social skills, emotional regulation, behavioral modification and positive communication skills. In addition to CCPT for children, there are also a number of programs for parents of young children to help them learn some basic skills that they can use to enhance what a child is learning in CCPT. Some of these programs include Filial Therapy, Child-Parent Relationship Therapy and the Positive Parenting Program.

Young children are not always able to express themselves verbally and using the same type of talk therapies that can work with older children and adults is not a useful approach. Children as young as 2 years old can benefit from CCPT because it uses something that is normal for children — play — and allows them to express themselves through it. In CCPT the counselor makes no effort to direct the child or to control or change what the child is doing. Instead, the child is allowed to express him or herself by playing out their feelings and experiences. The counselor will help the child to focus on his or her feelings by reflecting back to the child the feelings that are being expressed through their play. Counselors also help children by providing toys that will help them to express themselves and express their feelings about their environment and their lives. Counselors develop a relationship with children by helping them to feel safe and understood in a nonjudgmental manner. They do this by using reflective listening, therapeutic limit-setting and understanding. They make sure that the children feel totally safe to express whatever feelings they have and to transfer fears, anxieties, fantasies and guilt to the play objects rather than to other people. In this way they can act out their emotions.

Partnership for Results has recently been granted Play Therapy Provider status through the Association for Play Therapy. Provider status will allow the agency to provide seminars for counselors interested in earning continuing education credits in play therapy. The Partnership for Results will also be able to provide supervision to those counselors interested in becoming credentialed in play therapy. Lisa Carnicelli, M.S./CAS, LMHC, RPT-S and Pam Gicale, M.S., LMHC, CCPT, RPT-S, will coordinate programming and seminars for counselors, parents and teachers interested in learning about play therapy. Partnership for Results is dedicated to helping children and families thrive at school, home and in their community, and continues to look for ways to do this.

In addition to the Partnership for Results, Cayuga Counseling Services and the Cayuga County Community Mental Health Center offer play therapy to appropriately aged clients.

Katie Moran is the executive director of the Partnership for Results, a not-for-profit in Auburn dedicated to fostering the healthy development of children and their families. For more information on the Partnership for Results or the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, she can be contacted at 282-0005 ext. 10 or kmoran@partnershipforresults.org.

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Features editor for The Citizen.