There are a lot of different schools of thought on this topic.
Educational training and background primarily influences a therapist’s willingness to work with a specific population or age group.
Therapy for infants
There are some programs in university graduate schools that focus on infant mental health. In those scenarios, children in infancy can begin treatment, but the expectation is that it would be with a clinician who has been specifically trained in play therapy for that young of a population.
Practitioners trained in infant mental health have a very hands on approach to children younger than that who might be nonverbal or dependent on a caregiver that needs to be in the session with them. This is a very specific subset of children’s therapy that allows for children younger than three to participate in therapy.
As a general rule, If the child begins therapy younger than three, there has to be an experienced and trained therapist that understands the developmental needs, and uses an age-appropriate approach to working with children that young.
Therapy for children 3-14
Play therapists are best suited to work with this age range.
A child’s natural language is play and they communicate through experiential activities, rather than verbal conversations. Play therapy allows a child to work through struggles in the way that is most comfortable and well-suited for their developmental levels.
Child therapist specialists vs general therapists
There are many therapists who work with Children but are not specialized, nor specifically trained in approaches that are well suited for children.
So regardless of the age of the child, when they start therapy, the focus is on finding a therapist who understands the unique needs of children and the most effective approaches for therapy to be effective for play therapy.
The Kid Counselor Center therapists are specialized to help children 3-14 years old
At the Kid Counselor Center, we start at three so that the child is somewhat verbal and independent enough to play on their own.
From ages 3 to approximately 11, children play using toys and figures to express themselves and make sense of their world. Our therapists are specifically trained to observe and interact with the child using therapeutic responses.
Between the ages of 12-14, play therapists switch to activity-based “play”, versus playing with toys. This age group still responds very well to play therapy skills and therapeutic responses that a play therapist would use. And because the child is doing activities, they don’t feel like they are “playing”, as a younger child would.