Hoffman Homes’ Play Therapy Room Helps Children of All Ages Heal

A new play therapy room at UCC-related Hoffman Homes for Youth — a psychiatric residential treatment program for children suffering with mental health diagnoses and behavioral issues due to severe trauma, abuse, neglect and loss in Littlestown, Pa. — is enhancing Hoffman staff’s ability to help a wide range of children and youth, sometimes in unexpected ways.

The room had been in the works since Fall 2018, when Grants Manager Janet Miller received a request from Hoffman Homes clinicians. She then prepared grant requests for the funding.

“Before there was a room for play therapy, it was provided in the informal setting of each therapist’s office,” says Miller. “The play therapy room provides expanded space and ample choice of toys/manipulatives to choose from.”

Play therapy is a form of counseling or psychotherapy in which play is used as a means of helping children express or communicate their feelings. The practice aids children in processing traumatic situations and events. Through play therapy, children find a comfort level from which to speak about their play and, thus, about topics and experiences they find difficult to talk about.

Generous grants totaling $9,322 helped turn the dream of a play therapy room into reality. A grant of $3,300 was given by the Exchange Club of Hanover, and a grant of $6,022 came from The Kids Trust Fund, part of the Foundation for Enhancing Communities.

“Our room is utilized by therapists working with children on their individual treatment plans,” Miller says. “Having this room allows children the space and opportunities through play to ‘act out’ situations and traumatic events in a developmentally appropriate manner so they can process through them. Some children appear to act out unresolved past issues through the use of play when other interventions do not seem to work.”

The young clients know the room helps, too. Says one, “It was different for me. It was more open and gave me more activities to do with my therapist.”

One of the major successes of the room to date is the wide range of children and youth who benefit from the room. “Training for clinicians taught strategies for utilizing the play therapy room  with older children,” Miller says. “Hence, all the children in care at Hoffman Homes for Youth may benefit from play therapy, whether they are our youngest (age 6) or oldest (age 17).”

In addition to individual therapy sessions, the room is used for family therapy and other treatment-related meetings. “A child met a prospective family for the first time in this room,” says Miller. “The room seemed to put both the child and family at ease, as the space provided the opportunity for rapport building through the use of play.”

In the end, the most important benefit of the play therapy room is its ability to help  heal its young users. “The play therapy room is an important addition to our clinical program,” Miller adds, “as it delivers another outlet through which to reach children through therapy sessions, which helps children reach their treatment goals, heal, and return to their communities.”

Or, as one young Hoffman Homes resident shared, “It made me feel happy and positive.”

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