What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a specialized therapy where children can use forms of play to express their emotions, abuse, traumas, and stressors through the use of materials or objects. Toys are often viewed as the child’s words and play as the child’s language.

Children come into therapy for a number of reasons including major life changes, adjustments, dysregulation, disruptions, grief and loss, or experiencing major stressors or trauma (physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal/emotional abuse and/or neglect). Therapy is used to help individuals, families, couples, and groups to improve their emotional, social, behavioral, academic, and cognitive well-being.

Who Is Play Therapy For? 

Play therapy is to children what counseling and psychotherapy is to adults. Children are unable to understand and talk about their feelings and emotions like adults do. Even though play therapy is most often used with children, it can be used to treat people across the lifespan.

What Can Play Therapy Be Used For?

Play therapy has been demonstrated to be an effective therapeutic approach for a variety of children’s problems, including but not

limited to abuse and neglect, aggression and acting out, attachment difficulties, autism, ADHD, major physical injuries (e.g., burns,

accidents), chronic illness, hearing impairment, physical challenges, enuresis (bed-wetting), encopresis (inappropriate bowel movements), anxiety and depression, and other emotional difficulties.

What Happens In A Play Therapy Session? 

Children express themselves through a wide variety of styles of play therapy such as sand tray, art play, dramatic play, dollhouse play, puppet play, exploration play, expressive play, and fantasy play. Children can recreate experiences using play to express their anger, fears, sadness, traumas, and frustrations. A play therapy room is a safe environment which provides continuity of care, structure, and predictability. It gives kids a sense of control and empowers them.

What Can Parents Do At Home To Continue
The Benefits Of Play Therapy?

Parents can participate in Child-Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT), which is provided by trained therapists. CPRT is a 10-session Filial Therapy Model for training parents. CPRT is a specialized evidencebased child-centered therapy that focuses on play therapy principles and skills, such as reflective listening, recognizing and responding to children’s feelings, therapeutic limit setting, and building children’sself-esteem. CPRT requires weekly structured play sessions with parents and their children in their home. These play sessions require specialized toys and are used to help train parents to act as therapeutic agents with their own children.

Who Can Provide Play Therapy ?

To be a registered play therapist (RPT) and to practice play therapy, the therapist must have a current and active individual state license to provide mental health services; a master’s or higher mental health degree with demonstrated coursework in child development and other areas; over 2 years and 2000 hours of clinical experience; 150 hours of play therapy instruction from an Association for Play Therapy-approved institution; and 500 hours of supervised play therapy experience, plus 50 hours of play therapy supervision.

A registered play therapist (RPT) qualification must be renewed annually, including 18 hours of play therapy instruction from an Association for Play Therapy institution or an Association for Play Therapy approved provider every 36 months. RVW

Co-written by Jan Schwarzrock Carlson

Used with permission from River Valley Woman Magazine. Oct. 2016.