For young children, play is the way they communicate most effectively. Children may be able to communicate verbally with parents, siblings, and friends to express simple concepts, but play is the way they do the majority of their complex communicating, as well as the way they learn and grow.
When children are experiencing a difficulty in their life—either a traumatic event or a behavioral problem that they can’t seem to manage—many may not be able to “talk it out” like an adult does. Children need play to be able to process experiences, demonstrate their understanding of the world, learn new skills and practice implementing those skills into their lives. So, it doesn’t make sense to place a child in counseling to resolve issues if the child isn’t able to use play, as it is the main tool the child will use to resolve those issues.
Hi! My name is Emily Learing. In addition to being a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I am also a Registered Play Therapist, one of the few trained play therapists we have in Sioux Falls.
When working with a young child, I use play therapy as my way of assessing what is going on in the life of the child, communicating with the child, and intervening in order to make skill changes in the child’s day-to-day life.
I believe that children need to use play in order to achieve the goals of the counseling process because play creates a natural, non-threatening and supportive environment that is developmentally appropriate for the child.
I have experience treating children as young as infants and am the only Registered Play Therapist in Sioux Falls who is trained in infant and early childhood mental health, which is a focus on the mental health of children from birth until age 5. Research indicates that birth to three years of age are the most important years of a child’s postnatal development, and what happens in these three years of life have the strongest impact on who the child will become. Waiting until the child enters the school system to focus on social and emotional health means that the window of opportunity to have the most impact on this child has passed.
Whether the child is already showing signs of a developing problem—such as showing aggression at home or daycare, or having excessive difficulty separating from primary caregivers—or the child is simply at risk for developing a disorder because of certain risk factors in the child’s individual, family or child care environment, I am trained to help.
Give me a call so that we can discuss how I can help your young child overcome the challenges he or she is facing.
Not sure if I am the right play therapist for your child? There are many mental health professionals in our community who offer “play therapy” without the specific training. Play therapy is more than just using toys when working with a child in counseling. When looking for a play therapist for your child, it’s important to seek out a professional who is trained in the field of mental health and is knowledgeable about child development and play therapy.
The Association for Play Therapy provides a registry of all the Registered Play Therapists in Sioux Falls. The individuals on this list have completed specific training requirements to hold the Registered Play Therapist credential, a national credential confirming training and continuing education in the mental health and play therapy fields.
If I am not the right play therapist for you, check out this registry or give me a call. I’m happy to help connect you with the right professional in our community who is the best fit for you and your child!