Play therapy is helping children cope with trauma - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Play therapy is helping children cope with trauma

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

Text messaging, phone calls and social media are just a few ways we use words to communicate thoughts and feelings. However, before we learned how to express ourselves using words, we communicated through play. Experts said it's a universal language.

"It doesn't matter what language you speak," said registered play therapist and supervisor Stacey Norton. "No matter what country you go to, kids play. They find a way to play."

Stacy Norton said she uses play during therapy sessions with children.

"I use play to assess," said Norton. "Children who have stable environments, you know they're going to take care of the baby. If I have kids that have had abuse or attachment issues, they'll hand me the baby or they might be mean to the baby."

It's called play therapy, and therapists like Sandy Jacobsma have been using it for years.

"Through their play, they're acting out what their daily life is, what bothers them, what their concerns are," said Sandy Jacobsma, a registered play therapist.

"You can't sit down with a child and talk like you and I do and process things," said Norton.

Toys might just be a piece of plastic to adults, but experts said toys help children process emotions and feelings.

"Play is like the child's language and toys are their words. The toys help them to make sense of things that sometimes don't make any sense," said Norton.

That could be a home situation that includes drugs or alcohol. Or even losing a loved one.

"I have seen kids pretend with the dolls that the person who died is in heaven," said Norton. "So they make peace with whatever happened."

"I have seen kids who have had tremendous trauma heal," said Jacobsma.

"We're all about helping that child do better in that child's world," said Jacobsma.

A world that we are invited into through play.

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