What is Child Play Therapy?

We’ve all seen our children play. They play with dolls, trucks, cars, and crafts. It can be fun to watch or even join in on their play. Many of us think that play is just play, but it is so much more than that. 

The way your child plays provides insight into how they interact with others, with their world, and even themselves. 

While you may not see these interactions, Child Play Therapists are specially trained to work with children through play. They analyze and relate the play to how your child interacts with others, themselves, and the world. 

What types of play do therapists use?

There are multiple types of play a Child Play Therapist uses to allow a child a free and open way of communicating. Once your therapist understands the issues your child is facing, they design specific types of play, play areas, toys, and other items to cue specific play. 

The types of play your therapist employs will depend on the child. Most commonly, they use:

  • Nondirective Play Therapy: The therapist observes a child at play without giving any cues or ideas on how the child plays.
  • Puppets, dolls, and playhouses: This encourages pretend play. During pretend play, the child will create a situation or a stressful moment. The therapist can watch and gain insight into what the child may be experiencing emotionally.
  • Directive Play Therapy: The therapist will direct the child to reenact a specific situation, conversation, or other communication types between the child and an outside source (parent/sibling/friend).
  • Drawings: In this play, the therapist will ask a child to interpret drawings to observe emotional responses.
  • Drawing/Painting: This allows the therapist to observe the emotional expression of the child.

These are just a few of the types of play a therapist will use during therapy. Each session is designed specifically for your child based on issues you have indicated and what the therapist has observed in previous sessions. 

How does Play Therapy work?

Children are generally referred to play therapy to resolve problems when they’ve exhausted their problem-solving skills. When your child finds that those skills do not resolve the issue, they may begin to act out, misbehave, and have school problems. Play therapy helps children cope with difficult emotions and find solutions to problems. 

This allows your child to change the way they think about, feel, and resolve these issues. Play therapy helps to discover alternate ways of resolving problems. With guidance from the therapist, it can be rehearsed and mastered to create lifelong healthy coping strategies.

The benefits of play therapy include:

  • Becoming responsible for behaviors and learning successful strategies
  • Developing new solutions to problems
  • Learning respect and acceptance of others
  • Cultivating empathy and understanding for others
  • Learning social skills and relational skills with friends and family

What can play therapy help with?

There are many issues that play therapy can help your child. A child therapist who specializes in play therapy can identify problems and find creative ways to resolve them. 

Some of these issues are:

  • Chronic illness
  • Death in the family
  • Aggressive or angry behavior
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Eating and toilet issues
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Once identified, your therapist uses play to allow your child to express their feelings and direct them to alternative ways of dealing with problems. You may also be included in these sessions. Participating can provide you insight as to what your child is experiencing so you can learn how to communicate with each other better. 

Your therapist will decide when and how you may be involved. They will generally stay in regular contact with you to let you know how therapy progresses and help with working through issues with your child. 

How do I find a Child Play Therapist?

Child Play therapy is a specialized subset of therapy. It is essential to make sure the therapist you choose has had training and experience in this type of treatment. 

Lisa Rogers of Lisa Rogers Counseling has been practicing psychology since 1993. She is an Associate Member of Sandplay Therapists of America and has undergone training for additional types of play therapy. Lisa does in-person as well as telehealth therapy to fit you and your family’s schedule. Let us help your child and your family with a tailored therapy program to resolve issues and create healthier coping mechanisms for your child. Give us a call today.