Games provide an outlet for emotions in a playful way, in a safe environment. Unhappy individuals often lack the ability to identify and express emotion. Failure to successfully communicate emotional needs and interact with others in meaningful ways is often a root cause of depression.
Psychologist and author Irving N. Berlin observed, if there is little talking at home, children may have difficulty learning to communicate verbally. Instead they communicate with actions, which may range from sullen withdrawal to violent aggression. It is easy to see that a silent, somber child needs help to learn to communicate his emotional needs, but the child who bullies other children, is destructive or wild also needs this help. When children are able to verbalize their feelings effectively, often their destructive behavior diminishes.
Therapeutic play activities aid in this because:
• Games can help get feelings out into the open. Those who can express their feelings effectively in games — victorious feelings of winning, or disappointed feelings of loss – are better able to express the feelings they experience in real life.
• Everyone has a need to win and be successful if life. Having a chance to win at a game can provide this for children, without even actually having to win. A game is a controlled event, and being able to win in a fair game encourages children to overcome feelings of helplessness.
• Games can teach children how to successfully react to disappointment. The enjoyment of a game, despite loss, illustrates the principle that life provides abundant opportunities for enjoyment, and that tomorrow always brings another chance for success.
• Games are a socially acceptable way to discharge anger and tension. Just getting out and running until all your energy is gone can do wonders to relieve stress.
• Participating in an organized game means playing by rules, and rules teach us self control. If you can learn to control your negative impulses on the playing field, you can learn to do so in life.
• Games require interpersonal reaction, and are especially effective in helping withdrawn children come out of their shell.
• Children with low self-esteem have difficulty relating to their peers. Games can provide a way to teach children to interact successfully, thus raising their feelings of self-worth.