Play Therapy

‘Expressing and exploring feelings, thoughts and behaviours through play’

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy meets the child at their own level:

  • Children often do not have the language to express thoughts and feelings,
  • Play is the child’s language and the toys are their words,
  • Effective expression through selfinitiated, spontaneous play,
  • Play enables children to understand
    feelings and / or upsetting events,
  • Children communicate at their own pace.
  • Some children do not develop play skills independently; play therapy can teach play skills to enable the child to engage with their peers on an age appropriate level.
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Play therapy has been demonstrated to improve:

  • internalising behaviours (quiet and withdrawn), externalising behaviours (aggression)
  • behaviours linked with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism,
  • self-efficacy, including self-esteem,
  • academic outcomes including reading and achievement.
  • behaviours linked to defiance, impulsivity and poor peer relationship skills.

What does it look like in practice?

Play Therapy requires the formation of a non-judgmental, accepting relationship between child and therapist.  

Through a trusted therapeutic relationship, the play therapist enables the child to express their feelings, emotions and behaviours.

Play Therapy can either be non-directive or prescriptive. In non-directive play therapy, the child chooses the activity and the therapist tracks and reflects emotions within the play.

Prescriptive play therapy involves the therapist using their judgement as to when they need to be more directive within the play.


How can parents assist in therapy at home?

Parents can assist greatly by continuing therapy in the home by providing age appropriate toys for their children that require imagination.  Some examples include Lego, a doll’s house, train sets, play kitchens, play doctors sets, and items like playdough and craft materials.

Parents can also spend uninterrupted play time with their child where they allow the child to take the lead and focus on the child fully without distraction.

Even a short amount of time such as half an hour a week of this ‘special play time’ has been shown to be effective in building the attachment between child and parent and has been found to decrease problem behaviours.

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