Why Play Therapy?

What is Play Therapy?

Play is the natural language for children. Verbal expression often eludes young people, but they intuitively express themselves through their play activities. The Association for Play Therapy defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."1

Play therapy is an effective mental health treatment approach for children ages 3 and up. It has also been shown to be effective for adolescents and adults.

1. "Association for Play Therapy." https://www.a4pt.org/. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.

Who Does Play Therapy?

Play therapy is provided by mental health experts who have specialized training in the psychological development of young people and in the techniques of play therapy. Generally, a play therapist must have a master's degree in counseling or social work, be licensed to provide therapy in their state, and have received training and supervision in the provision of play therapy. Play therapists often have a specific play therapy room that is dedicated to the use of play therapy in their practice. Some therapists use portable play kits to provide this service in the community or in schools, hospitals, and other environments in which the therapist goes to the child.

How Can Play Therapy Help My Child?

How Can Play Therapy Help My Child?

Many types of child clients benefit from play therapy. Children who have experienced acute or chronic trauma can learn to express their emotions in a health manner and regulate their emotions more consistently. Children with autism or other developmental disorders build social skills and problem-solving abilities. Children who live in stressful situations, or have difficulty dealing with change can find firm footing for themselves through play therapy.

How Can I Get My Child Started in Play Therapy?

There are many play therapists available to see your child. The Association for Play Therapy has a directory of Registered Play Therapists across the United States. A Child & Family Psychiatry LLC has offices in Gahanna, Ohio and has a number of clinicians who provide play therapy services. Most insurances include play therapy as a covered mental health service. Contact a provider of your choice and ask them how play therapy can benefit your child.

What Should I Expect?

Play therapy is very different from traditional talk therapies. Children are invited to act out nearly any play scene they can imagine. Your child's relationship with the play therapist is key to the transformative power of play. The therapist will set boundaries to protect your child, but limits are set only as necessary for this safety. Your child is free to express himself or herself, and will do so as the therapeutic relationship builds. This can take several weeks, but once established, the relationship is the key to a child's response to therapy. Parents are encouraged to listen to their child talk about their play therapy session, but not to "pry" into what a drawing means or "why" they played in a certain manner. The child needs to feel free to play in meaningful ways without the fear of being judged or questioned by a parent. The play therapist will meet with you separately from time to time to discuss themes, concerns, progress, and successful termination of treatment.

Chuck Junkin, MA, LPCC

Chuck is a play therapist in the Columbus, Ohio area. He has been working with children and their families for over 25 years. Chuck teaches and writes about play therapy for parents as well as other professionals. He can be reached at junkinlpcc@gmail.com.