Have you ever heard of sandplay therapy? What about aquatic therapy? Do you know that play is a certified form of therapy? Often times when people think of therapy options for mental health, the first thing that comes to mind is talk-therapy. While talk-therapy can help some, it may not be enough for everyone. In this informative article, we’re going to dive into five non-traditional options for those seeking help. You may find an interesting therapy option that may be suitable for yourself or a loved one. Children often respond well to nontraditional therapy options, but everyone including adults can benefit. We encourage everyone to find the best therapy option that works for them- and to keep looking until you find it! The five non-traditional options described below are: art therapy, play therapy, sandplay therapy, animal assisted therapy and aquatic therapy.

Art Therapy

Photo credit: Time Square Chronicles

 

What it is:

Art therapy is a creative outlet that allows individuals to recover and heal from mental illness, trauma, or substance abuse. Art therapy works around symbols and images that hold meanings both consciously and unconsciously. While the art can often speak for an individual, talking is also a relevant part. People can use anything from paint, markers, chalk, collages, etc. to describe what is happening.

Benefits:

            Art therapy gets rid of simply sitting and talking. Self-expression, by itself, can be very cathartic. The American Art Therapy Association, AATA for short, has listed the following benefits of art therapy1:

  • Increasing an individual’s self-awareness
  • Increasing an individual’s self-esteem
  • Managing behavioral problems and addictions
  • Improving realistic perceptions
  • Improving communication skills and expression of emotions
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Developing social and interpersonal skills

Access to therapy option:

Art therapists work in a variety of settings. They work in hospitals, clinics, educational institutions, community programs, etc. AATA has a map that shows all art therapist near you and around the country and you can find that map here.

How much is it:

The cost of an individual session can vary depending upon your location and the therapist you decide to go with. An example of an individual session cost is a 50-minute session can cost $90. While a 50-minute family session can cost you $45.

Insurance coverage:

The coverage for different types of therapies always varies depending on your insurance provider and the type of plan you have with that insurance provider. Insurance providers may not cover art therapy because it’s not deemed “medically necessary.” AATA states that insurance providers may not cover art therapy costs because they don’t have enough information about art therapy’s efficacy3. Art therapy is not always deemed medically necessary in every case, this is determined by the insurance company.

 

Play Therapy

What it is:

Play therapy can be used with adults. However, children 3-12 benefit the most because they are able to explore their lives and freely express their repressed thoughts and emotions through play. Children are encouraged to express freely in a playroom. This allows the therapist to observe the child’s choices, decisions, and play style. Play therapy helps children deal with social or emotional deficits and help them learn to communicate better, change their behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and relate to others in positive ways. Play therapy can help children who have had a serious illness, have witnessed, or experience, domestic violence, abuse, trauma, or a family crisis. In an academic setting play therapy can help children who have social problems, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, anxiety, depression, grief, anger, or are on the autism spectrum.

Benefits:

According to the Association for Play Therapy, these are the benefits of play therapy:

  • Becoming more responsible for behaviors and developing more successful strategies
  • Developing new and creative solutions to problems
  • Developing respect and acceptance of self and others
  • Learning to experience and express emotion
  • Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others
  • Learn new social skills and relational skills with family
  • Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities

Access to therapy option:

            Some play therapists are psychologists and some are social workers. The majority are counselors and work with a government agency or elementary school. To find a play therapist in your area, you can check out the Association for Play Therapy here.

How much is it:

The cost of play therapy will vary dramatically depending upon your geographical location and the type of organization you go with. For example, The Center for Play Therapy, which is based in Verona, Wisconsin, charges $300 for an initial evaluation and observation, which is between an hour and half to two hours, individual play therapy sessions are $150 for an hour.

Insurance coverage:

Similar to art therapy, many insurance plans will only cover what they deem “medically necessary.” If the insurance provider doesn’t deem it “medically necessary”, then the individual would be responsible for all costs associated with the therapy.

 

Sandplay Therapy

Photo credit: Audrey Punnett PhD

What it is:

Sandplay is a nonverbal, therapeutic intervention that makes use of a sandbox, toy figures, and sometimes water, to create scenes of miniature worlds that reflect an individual’s inner thoughts, struggles, and concerns. This is a form of play therapy that is practiced with talk therapy. Sandplay is used often for those who have suffered from trauma, neglect, or abuse. It’s well suited for young children but can also be extremely helpful for teens and adults who have trouble expressing themselves and who have suffered from severe trauma.

Access to therapy option:

Sandplay therapist are available across America. You can find Sandplay therapist in your area by checking out Sandplay Therapists of America.

How much is it:

The price of a sandplay therapy session will vary depending on who you choose to go with.

Insurance coverage:

Similar to other alternatives to talk-therapy, insurance coverage of sandplay depends on if your insurance company deems it “medically necessary.” This will all depend on your insurance provider and your plan with the company.

*It’s important to note that sandplay therapists don’t have to have certifications or licenses to practice sandplay*

 

Animal Assisted Therapy:

Photo credit: Hal Herzog Ph.D. at Psychology Today

What it is:

Animal assisted therapy is one of the more commonly known alternatives to talk therapy. Many people have therapy dogs. Animal assisted therapy involves incorporating animals into traditional therapy. The animals can enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapy. Animals can provide a sense of calm, comfort, or safety. They can also divert attention away from a stressful situation and can gear it towards a situation that provides pleasure. Animal assisted therapy can help everyone from children who are having a dental procedure to people in long-term care facilities and even those suffering from dementia.

Benefits:

The benefits of animal assisted therapy have been studied for a while and scientifically proven. According to Mayo Clinic, animal assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people who have a wide range of health problems.

Access to therapy option:

Since animal assisted therapy is one alternative to traditional therapy that is more widely known, the access is extremely great. Animal assisted therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, physical / occupational therapy facilities, and mental / behavioral health facilities to name a few. You can even ask animal assisted therapists to come to your college campus during stressful periods like midterms or finals.

How much is it:

According to the Animal Assisted Therapy Services, or AATS for short, animal assisted therapy can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $40,000. The breakdown of these numbers is below:

  • Service dogs go any and everywhere with the owner and can cost between $25,000 – $40,000. This includes the 18 month or more intense training that an animal will have to go through and registration with the ADA in order for the animal to go everywhere with the owner. This option is great for those who are deaf, blind, or even suffer from seizures.
  • Emotional support dogs can cost between $8,000 – $10,000. These animals are trained for an individual and receive specialized training for the owner. Training is between 4 – 8 months. It’s important to note that emotional support dogs CANNOT be registered with the ADA because they’re not considered to be a part of medical equipment.
  • Therapy dogs are trained dogs and are more versatile than a service dog since they can work in a variety of settings with a variety of populations. Therapy dogs spend their mornings at school relating to young children and the afternoons are spent at an assisted living facility. Cover time includes several training classes, evaluation fees, and an AATS Credentialed Therapy Dog Team membership fee that is around $1,000.

Insurance coverage:

Insurance coverage will depend on your insurance company and the plan you have with that company. You do get a tax deduction with your service animal. However, these tax deductions only apply for certified service dogs. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs does not provide service dogs currently. They do cover the cost of veterinary care for veterans who service or guide dogs.

 

Aquatic Therapy

Photo credit: Alpine Physical Therapy

What it is:

Aquatic therapy is essentially physical therapy that takes place in a pool or another type of aquatic environment. Aquatic therapy is also known as water therapy, hydrotherapy, or pool therapy, to name a few. Aquatic therapy can be used to help individuals who have autism, balance disorders, cerebral palsy, depression, stress, sprains, and strains, and traumatic brain injury, to list a few.

Benefits:

According to Hydroworx.com, some benefits of aquatic therapy include:

  • Warm water provides a relaxing and soothing environment for aching joints and muscles.
  • Water’s natural viscosity or resistance can be used for muscle strengthening and increasing rehabilitation progressions.
  • Buoyancy allows for flotation and reduces the effects of gravity on injured or aching joints and muscles.
  • Hydrostatic pressure supports and stabilizes the client, allowing people with balance deficits to perform exercises without a fear of falling, decreasing pain and improving cardiovascular return.
  • Turbulence and wave propagation let the therapist gently manipulate the client through the desired exercises.
  • The respiratory muscles are forced to work harder in the water, allowing for a natural strengthening that benefits the client long after the therapy session has ended.

Access to therapy option:

Access to aquatic therapy is pretty easy. A lot of physical therapy places offers aquatic therapy.

How much is it:

According to MDsave, aquatic therapy can cost you $116.

Insurance coverage:

As with other therapies, aquatic therapy needs to be deemed medically necessary in order to be covered by insurance. Services are billed as either physical therapy or occupational therapy.

 

~ Angela Tilghman

 

 

 

Additional References

American Art Therapy Association . (2011, December 6). COMMONLY ASKED MEMBER PUBLIC POLICY. Retrieved from American Art Therapy Association

Foundations Recovery Network . (n.d.). Art Therapy. Retrieved from Foundations Recovery Network | Dual Diagnosis :

The Art Station . (n.d.). Retrieved from The Art Station | Healing Through Art

Play Therapy . (n.d.). Retrieved from Psychology Today