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What is Play Therapy? 

Play therapy is a therapeutic intervention specifically created to help children understand the world around them. According to the Association for Play Therapy, play therapy is defined as “the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained Play Therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."


Children use play to understand their world and a play therapist is able to work with this natural ability to help a child explore and resolve problems through play. This is accomplished in a therapeutic space known as a playroom, where toys that have been specifically chosen to encourage the safe expression of feelings and streamline the learning of healthier behaviors.

Play therapy is the most appropriate method of treatment for children who are experiencing difficulties. According to The Association for Play Therapy, “Play therapy builds on the natural way a child learns about themselves and their relationships in the world. Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn new ways of relating.”


Play Therapy can be very beneficial for your child. Therapy can help to improve a child’s socialization, coping, and problem-solving skills. Therapy can reduce a child’s frustration and anger, or clarify feelings of confusion. One of the benefits of therapy is often to help in developing a more positive self-esteem for children. Improvement, change, and progress are the goals of child psychotherapy. Through play therapy children can find solutions, develop self-assertion and overall acceptance.


Play Therapy should only be provided by mental health professionals who have met the required education, licensure, and additional specialized training and supervision specific to Play Therapy.

How Does Play Therapy Work?

Children are made comfortable in the playroom first by engaging in open-ended play and granted complete freedom to play in the way he or she prefers, as long as this play causes no harm to the self or others. The therapist will observe the child, and as time goes on, begin to take a more active role, becoming more directive and encouraging the child to play with specific items or participate in certain activities that the therapist believes will be particularly effective in addressing the child’s problems.


Generally, the directed aspect of play therapy is used to cover diverse areas in specific ways, conferring the following benefits:

  • Healing from Past Stressful or Traumatic Experiences is Enabled

  • The Expression of Feelings is Encouraged

  • Creative Thoughts and New Ideas are Developed

  • The Development of Healthy Decision-Making Skills is Facilitated

  • The Child is Taught How to Communicate Problems and Concerns to Others

  • New Ways of Thinking and Behaving are Learned 

  • Healing from Past Stressful or Traumatic Experiences is Enabled


Children generally lack the ability to immediately talk

through difficult experiences and emotions (as an adult

would through counseling). Instead, they must start at

the base level of simply making sense of them. Only by

doing so can these experiences by assimilated into

conscious awareness, into what the child already knows

of the world. This is called “processing” and will most

likely result in the healthy expression of thoughts and

feelings as the child comes to a new understanding of

the experience. Behavior subsequently changes for the

better, as the feelings are being expressed using a

different channel. 


Similar to adults, it is difficult to predict a specific

time period or number of sessions required for

change. A number of dynamics factor into how each

child and family responds to therapy. The therapy

process, including Play Therapy, is an individual

process. While we recognize that results are the

goal of therapy, progress occurs at each child’s

individual pace. Some children make progress

quickly, but others move at a slower pace and it is

not possible to rush a child’s development. We are confident, however, that with consistent therapy

services, your child and your family will see

improvement in your child’s behavior and social-emotional health.


“Enter into child’s play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts and souls meet.”

--Virginia Axline

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