What is Play Therapy?

I use play therapy in my work with children - for the simple reason that play is how children (of all ages) communicate. Kids typically do not come to therapy to talk - because adults generally talk AT THEM rather than TO them at their level. Play is a way to bridge and talk to kids on their level.

In working with children I use what is called child-centered techniques. That means the child gets to choose what we talk about or do during the session. Depending on the age or needs of the child, this can look very different to what adults typically think of as therapy. The stages of treatment are generally:

  • Introduction – your child will be getting used to me, the office, and the therapy process. The more shy/anxious your child, the longer this period may be.

  • Acceptance – your child will start looking forward to sessions and be eager to interact. This is the easiest of the treatment phases.

  • Negative Reaction – when the REAL WORK begins and your child begins to make changes. While changes are necessary, they are not always easy or comfortable. You may see both healthy new behaviors and old negative behaviors during this phase. Your child may resist sessions during this time.

  • Growing – most important and longest phase. This is where your child will better understand their difficulties and learn how to best resolve them. Regression can happen!

  • Termination – begins when your child’s behavioral and emotional functioning have stabilized to the point that everyone agrees that they can be maintained without regular sessions. This may be a difficult phase because they may have looked forward to their sessions and they are coming to an end.

Benefits of utilizing Play Therapy, according to the Association for Play Therapy (APT), for children include:

  • become more responsible for behaviors

  • develop new and creative solutions to problems

  • develop respect and acceptance of self and others

  • learn to experience and express emotion

  • cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others

  • learn new social skills and relational skills

  • and more

Sessions are typically 45-50 minutes long and take place on a weekly or bi-weekly (every two week) basis. According to the Association for Play Therapy, "it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions to resolve the problems of the typical child referred for treatment." I work closely with parents/guardians to discuss progress with treatment, to adjust time between sessions, and determine when to begin transitioning out of treatment. When parents/guardians are involved in treatment, the treatment is more effective.

More information can also be found on the Association for Play Therapy website (a4pt.org)