“In play therapy,
toys are the child's words and
play is the child's language” (Dr. Gary Landreth)
“Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk” (Carl Jung)
Along with love and work, play is an important part of human happiness. It is also the language of the children, how they practice skills and roles needed for survival, relieve feelings of stress, regulate their emotions, and process their difficulties. The use of play in therapy is helpful when verbal language fails and is specially effective with young children who do not have the vocabulary for their troubling thoughts or feelings.
The practice of play therapy requires extensive specialized education, training, and experience. As a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, Dr. Portela is trained to engage children in a variety of play therapy techniques that cover a range of presenting issues. Parent education about the child’s emotional or behavioral difficulties and support on effective parenting strategies are also an important part of the work with children and their families.
Dr. Portela believes a secure attachment between child and parent facilitates children’s development. When past trauma and attachment disruptions are present, a therapeutic environment may be necessary for children to feel safe enough to open their hearts to trust and love again. In such cases, the mother (or main caregiver) may be involved in therapy as the change agent to heal the broken bond with the child. Building trust in the child towards the mother becomes one of the focus of therapy. The loving acceptance by the mother of the child’s genuine feelings (not to be confused by the child’s inappropriate or disruptive behavior) is also a vital part of the bonding work. The attachment between mother and child is reinforced in therapy sessions with eye contact, touch, movement, smiles, and the sharing of food.
Dr. Portela is extensively involved with the Association for Play Therapy. She has been the president for the North Carolina Association for Play Therapy chapter since 2012 and has worked with the NCAPT board of the since 2007. She is an APT Conference Program Committee member, Leadership Academy enrollee, and Play Therapy magazine reviewer. She teaches also Play Therapy graduate courses at North Carolina Central University, has presented extensively on the subject, and has authored articles for the Play Therapy Magazine.