Why Play in Therapy?

“Play is a medium for expressing feelings, exploring relationships, and self-fulfillment.”

-Garry Landreth, Ed.D.

  • Through play, therapists have the opportunity to teach children more adaptive behaviors and promote cognitive development when they are experiencing emotional or social skills deficits.
  • During play, a positive relationship develops between therapist and child which may provide a corrective emotional experience or help release the natural healing resources within the child.
  • Play serves as an intervention for many behaviors caused by emotional conflicts, distorted thinking patterns and trauma in the child.
  • Play serves as a vehicle for a view into a child’s world.
  • Play serves as a safe place for children to heal.

What is Play Therapy?

Play Therapy refers to intentional models and interventions facilitated by credentialed professionals that will help children address and resolve their own problems through play. Because play is typically fun, it makes it easier for the child to address underlying causes to behaviors and feelings. It provides psychological distance between the child and their problems, which allows them to truly express what they are thinking and feeling. Play Therapy provides a safe environment like a playroom for children to heal. Play Therapy uses models that are child centered and often will help with parenting issues through training parents to use play therapy skills with their children.

How does Play Therapy work?

Play Therapy can take place in a special play room or in a counselor’s office and can be with art, sand, games, toys or just play. The child has an opportunity through the process of play to naturally express feelings and show behaviors. The therapist through observation, and assessment and the symbolic nature of play can begin to track a child’s world view; and can help facilitate different coping strategies, problem solve solutions and identify difficult emotions.  Play Therapy gives children the opportunity to change the way they are thinking, feeling about their problems as well as how they are behaving.

Who benefits from Play Therapy?

Play Therapy is a natural healing process for children. Typically, toddlers 2- 3 year olds through late latency age 9-11 and early adolescent 12-14 can benefit the most from play therapy interventions. Adolescents and adults can benefit from using expressive interventions to help access feelings that are often part of the Play Therapy process: such as drawing and painting, journaling and poetry, and music.