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Although it is common to use the terms “feelings” and “emotions” interchangeably, both have distinct meanings despite imparting interconnective relativity with one another. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) emotions are complex reaction patterns that arise in an individual due to a personally significant issue or event, where the unique significance of the event determines the quality of the emotion. BetterHelp further explains that “emotions emerge subconsciously in several brain areas, including the subcortical region, the amygdala, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortices.” Whereas feelings are a completely conscious self-contained phenomenal experience that typically is judged as either pleasant or unpleasant experience. While children of course experience a wide range of feelings and emotions, child development psychologist Jean Piaget observed that young children were largely incapable of expressing complex motives, feelings, and thoughts, as their brains had not fully developed the capability of abstract thought. 

Play Therapy

Play therapy, also referred to as imaginative play therapy, is defined as the “systematic use of a theoretical model that establishes an interpersonal process, in which trained therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help children prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.” Play therapy provides children with the opportunity to express complex feelings and thoughts using a nonverbal and universal means of expression. Certain aspects of play therapy can help children explore their feelings and emotions because play therapy:

  • Provides an emotionally safe environment where children can freely process their experiences without fear of negative consequence.
  • Promotes social and emotional development that can enhance emotional regulation skills.
  • Offers client-guided sessions that are uniquely tailored to each child’s preferences, needs, interests, and abilities. 
  • Facilitates improved communication and problem-solving skills through building and expanding on typical communicative and learning processes of children.

The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT) asserts that play therapy can help children sort through complicated feelings and emotions without feeling interrogated or threatened by relying on play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace.

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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