How to Do Play Therapy

Play Therapy


Take a thorough history. Talk to the child's parents to find out why they have enlisted the help of a therapist. Find out about the child's emotional and behavioral difficulties. Talk to the child as well to get her version of why she is in therapy. This will provide the background information needed as you work with the child on expressing emotion, grieving losses and increasing self-esteem.


Pay attention to the child's personality to determine what forms of play the child will respond to most. Get to know the child and provide a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere, so he can explore who he is. Let the child know it is safe to express what he likes, doesn't like and how he is feeling. Look for non-verbal cues that may reveal valuable information about the emotional state of the child.


Determine how much to involve the child's family in treatment. Parents will expect to be kept in the loop about their child's progress; however, it may also be beneficial to bring them in for adjunct therapy sessions with the child. Play therapy can even be done with the entire family. Communicate regularly with the family to reassure them of the effectiveness of play therapy and the various stages of treatment that their child is in.


Make sure your therapy room is stocked with supplies for play therapy. Sand-tray therapy is a technique that requires a tray full of sand and a variety of miniature objects that the client can use to create a world within the tray. Where the child places each object and the patterns that are formed can reveal a lot about the client's thoughts and feelings. Books can be used to educate the child on family dynamics, stages in the growing process, expression of feelings and other relevant topics. Balls can be used to play catch while talking about issues in the client's life. The process of throwing the ball back and forth can relax the client as they discuss serious topics. Dolls and can be useful as well. The therapist can learn a lot by watching the client play with toys.

Play therapy is a technique therapists use in order to connect with children in counseling sessions and help the children to express their emotions. Play therapy can involve playing music, reading books, making up stories, writing letters and playing with balls. Therapists often use play therapy when children have difficulty verbally expressing their feelings. It can promote insight and provide a corrective emotional experience for children who have been hurt emotionally. Play therapy sessions typically last 30 to 50 minutes and take place once a week.