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What is play therapy?

  • Play is the language, toys are the words.
  • Play is a child’s natural way of organizing and expressing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
  • What adults say with words children say with play?
  • Play is the way children learn what no one can teach them.

Play therapy is the use of carefully selected materials and techniques in a professional therapeutic setting with a specially-trained practitioner. Play therapists use a variety of formats including directed and non-directed “free” play, artistic expressive therapies, specific exercises like sandtray therapy, and cooperative and competitive activities to build rapport and open communication with children and adolescents.  These techniques help them develop skills and gain experience dealing with issues such as abuse, trauma, frustration tolerance, self-control, and moderating impulsive behaviors within a safe, predictable environment for success in the outside world.

Why is play therapy effective?

Play therapy techniques are successful because they provide a hands-on, multi-dimensional means of exploring and processing complex feelings, thoughts, concepts, and issues that may be extremely difficult to address by verbal means alone.  With children, who generally have limited mastery of language and are just learning an emotional vocabulary, play provides a medium though which a trained therapist can observe and exchange a vast amount of information, permitting them to address specific problem areas more effectively.  “Only when children feel fully accepted are they able to change”.


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