"Play is the child's language and toys are the child's words."

Play Therapy FAQS

What is play therapy and how does it help children?

Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world around them and helps them to express their feelings more easily through toys instead of words (Axline, 1947; Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002).

Who practices play therapy?

The practice of play therapy requires extensive specialized education, training, and experience. A play therapist is a licensed (or certified) mental health professional that has earned a Master’s or Doctorate degree in a mental health field with considerable general clinical experience and supervision. With advanced, specialized training, experience, and supervision, mental health professionals may also earn the Registered Play Therapist (RPT) or Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S) credentials¹ conferred by the Association for Play Therapy (APT). A list of qualified play therapists in your area can be obtained at www.a4pt.org.


How long will it take?

Each play therapy session varies in length but usually last about 30 to 50 minutes. Sessions are usually held weekly. Research suggests that it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions to resolve the problems of the typical child referred for treatment. Of course, some children may improve much faster while more serious or ongoing problems may take longer to resolve (Landreth, 2002; Carmichael, 2006).


How much does it cost?

Fees for play therapy services vary by provider and should be discussed with your child’s therapist.

How is play therapy different from other therapies?

Play therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own problems. Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.

How do I know if play therapy is appropriate for my child?

Research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: children whose problems are related to life stressors, such as divorce, death, relocation, hospitalization, chronic illness, assimilate stressful experiences, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and natural disasters (Reddy, Files-Hall & Schaefer, 2005).


What are the benefits of play therapy?

Play therapy helps children:

  • Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.

  • Develop new and creative solutions to problems.

  • Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.

  • Learn to experience and express emotion.

  • Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.

  • Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.

  • Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.


What are you actually going to do with my child?

Play therapy allows trained mental health practitioners who specialize in play therapy, to assess and understand children’s play. By confronting problems in the clinical Play Therapy setting, children find healthier solutions. Play therapy allows children to change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve their concerns (Kaugars & Russ, 2001). Even the most troubling problems can be confronted in play therapy and lasting resolutions can be discovered, rehearsed, mastered and adapted into lifelong strategies (Russ, 2004).

Do I need to be with my child?

The play therapist will make some decisions about how and when to involve some or all members of the family in the play therapy. At a minimum, the therapist will want to communicate regularly with the child’s caretakers to develop a plan for resolving problems as they are identified and to monitor the progress of the treatment.


What’s the difference between play therapy and playing with my child at home?

Play therapists are specifically trained to provide an environment of acceptance, empathy and understanding in the play therapy room. Play therapy is not the same thing as playing. Play therapy uses the child’s natural tendency to “play out” their reactions to life situations, in the presence of a trained play therapist, to help the child feel accepted and understood and gain a sense of control or understanding of difficult situations.

Do I have to play too?

Depending on the needs of your child, an alternate treatment approach called filial therapy may be recommended. In filial therapy, under the therapist’s guidance, the parents learn to conduct a special type of play session with their own children. Regardless of whether play therapy or filial therapy is appropriate for your child, parents are considered true partners in the entire therapeutic process.

What is the best way to communicate with my child’s therapist?

Your child’s therapist will work very closely with you while your child is involved in Play Therapy. It is our policy that we have an initial session with parents prior to meeting with your child and we continue to meet with you for consults on a monthly basis thereafter. To better facilitate the Play Therapy process, your child’s therapist will also ask that you complete a “Weekly Caregiver Report”. The “Weekly Caregiver Report” is a form that you will be asked to complete each week. It will provide you with a way to note significant and/or new happenings in your child’s life since the last session (positive and/or negative). It also gives you and your therapist a way to assess changes in the identified areas of concern. The form also allows a place for the caregiver to indicate if they need to speak to the therapist via phone before the next session.

What can I do to support my child?

  • Be consistent and encourage your child to attend sessions regularly.

  • Resist the urge to ask your child what they did in session or if they had “fun”. Sessions are your child’s special time and they should feel free to express themselves at their own pace without the worry that their parents will know exactly what happened. Your child’s therapist will share important themes and suggest meaning of play during parent consultations.

  • Please don’t ask your child to ‘”be good” or check in with their therapist about session content. Your child should feel free to express their feelings in an uncensored way.

  • Don’t insist that your child share certain things with their therapist (positive or negative.) Instead, share your joys and concerns with your therapist either by communicating through the weekly caregiver report, a phone call, or at scheduled consultations. Please do not discuss joys or concerns with the therapist in front of your child.

  • Provide your child with a snack before arrival and encourage them to go to the bathroom before sessions.

Information obtained from www.a4pt.org.

3810 MEDICAL PKWY #119
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