Child Play Therapy (Ages 3-12)
It’s one of the joys of parenthood to watch children learn through play.
A few blocks build a city. A slight push tumbles it down.
A stuffed toy falls and needs a hug.
A costume turns a child into a firefighter or a wizard, ready to help someone in need.
Just as children learn about life through play, in play therapy, they heal and resolve issues through play.
A common misconception about play therapy is sometimes phrased this way: “So you play with them so that they feel comfortable telling you what is going on with them?”
No. The play is used in a strategic way, and conversation is not required for healing.
"Play is used in a strategic way, and conversation is not required for healing."
What Issues Can Be Addressed?
Play therapy can be used for social, emotional, and behavioral challenges:
Treatment goals are created in collaboration with the parents and the child, to have a buy-in from both.
What Does Play Therapy Do?
Play therapy’s philosophy is that the child already has everything they need to solve a problem. The therapist is the guide who facilitates the breakthrough.
How Does It Work?
Therapeutic play provides a safe psychological distance from the child’s problem. It allows expression of thoughts and feelings when the child does not have the verbal language to express them. Another way to say this is that in the session, the problem is presented in tolerable doses, allowing the child to address it rather than be overwhelmed.
Play allows children to practice skills and roles needed for solving the underlying problems that cause misbehavior and distress. It helps connect with other people (in this case, the therapist) and regulates emotions.
Through play, therapists help children learn more adaptive behaviors when they have emotional or social skills deficits. In cases of past trauma, the positive relationship that develops with the therapist, as well as safe re-enactment, provide a corrective emotional experience necessary for healing.
What is a Typical Play Therapy Session Like?
The therapist plays with the child 30-50 minutes, usually focusing on one issue. If the family prefers that the parent stay in the room, the parent is coached on how to provide support along with the therapist, practicing how to respond to the child in a way that promotes the therapy goals.
Many children want to share with the parent what they did and spontaneously invite the parent to join. If the child prefers not to have the parent in the room, this preference can indicate a secondary issue (not wanting to worry the parent, worry about the parent’s reaction) that is addressed as part of the treatment, using family engagement and communication techniques.
How Does a Therapist Train in Play Therapy?
The credential Registered Play Therapist (RPT) shows that a licensed mental health professional has received advanced, specialized training, and supervision, and has had work experience meeting the requirements of the Association for Play Therapy (APT).
More information about my qualifications and experience is on the About The Therapist page.
How Does Confidentiality Work with This Age?
For children and adolescents to feel comfortable revealing private information, they need a safe place to communicate about anything they'd like, without fear of that information leaving the room. Yet parents can feel left out and worried when they are told nothing about what happens in the room.
What I say to parents is this: without breaking confidentiality, I will tell you the general theme of what we are working on, and I will encourage the child to share with you challenges and solutions we’ve come up with. I ask young children and teens what they are willing to share with the parents and address worries about sharing any particular information. I might try to mitigate worries, but ultimately I respect the child’s decision.
How do I begin?
You can call or email to schedule a 15-minute phone consultation.
Why can’t I schedule a full session, only a phone call?
Existing clients can schedule any type of session during available hours. Prospective clients can only schedule a free 15-minute consult call. Before scheduling a first full session, I want to make sure that I am the right therapist for you. A good fit between client and the type of issues the therapist can treat is crucial to the success of treatment.
Also, during consult, I will address medical insurance. If I cannot address your therapy needs or if I do not take your insurance, I will try to find a referral for you.