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Play Therapy

Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. Play therapy utilizes play, children’s natural medium of expression, to help them express their feelings more easily through toys instead of words.   When we, as adults, encounter a tough problem, we often think about it for a while, look at it from different angles, determine our options, and sometimes talk about it with someone we trust. When things go wrong for us, we might mentally review what happened and think about how we

might handle the situation in the future. During play therapy, children do these same things using their imaginations.

What Happens in Play Therapy?


Through the play therapy process children create play that resembles

the emotional experiences they are struggling with internally. These

experiences often cannot be expressed verbally. Children will select

specific toys to include in their play and use those toys to recreate

issues that represent emotional conflicts important to the child. The

child’s play evolves until the child gains a sense of understanding and

comfort over the situation resulting in gains in confidence,

empowerment, empathy, and self-esteem.


How Long Will Play Therapy Take?


Play therapy is a process and the amount of time it takes depends on

several factors in the child’s past and present experiences. The two

most important factors are the developmental stage of the child and

the age of the child at the onset of the issue. Usually the more recent

the events, the shorter the therapy length. The further back in the

child’s development that the onset of the issue occurred, the longer

the play process will take. Other factors influencing the length of time

therapy will take include the amount of trauma in the child’s history,

the willingness of the family to make changes, and consistency of



Is Play Different in Play Therapy than When My Child Plays at



The basic function of play remains the same in both situations. Play to

children is a natural way to rehearse for life’s interactions. Play serves

three primary purposes. The first two are for cognitive and motor

development. The third is for emotional resolution. When facilitated

by a play therapist, the play becomes focused on the emotional

component. This leads to understanding, resolution, and re

establishment of balance in the child’s sense of well-being.


How Will I Be Involved as a Parent?


Parent involvement is an essential component of the play therapy

process. Parents will be asked to meet/talk with the therapist on a

regular basis. These discussions will not be held in front of your child

before or after play therapy sessions but at a separate time. One of

the critical components of the play therapy process is the child’s

ability to trust the therapist and feel safe to express whatever they

need to in the playroom. As children move through the process they

will often share with parents their experience, ask questions about

past events, and become curious about the way their world works. As a

parent, you can support your child by listening attentively and

validating their experience without judgment or defensiveness.

Parents will be asked to contribute to their child’s progress by

observing and sharing with the therapist changes in their child’s

behavior and by following recommendations of the therapist, which

may include activities to support the therapy process.

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