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Play Therapy – What Is It And How Does It Work?

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

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Primarily, play therapy is used for children. However, under some circumstances, it can be applied in treating adults as well. Since children have a more challenging time expressing their emotions, especially in conversation with adults, play therapy comes in handy.

Whenever we notice an issue and a child cannot articulate why it happened, having an expert can be helpful.

While it may look like a game, play therapy is used to observe a child and gain insight into their way of thinking and emotions.

This therapy is especially effective in dealing with children who have some sort of unresolved trauma.

Through play, they can learn some new techniques for dealing with their

emotions and controlling their behavior. As it’s well-known, children that have been traumatized, regardless of the trauma type, have a hard time expressing their feelings and tend to misbehave.

Sometimes, it can manifest through aggressive behavior, while we have children that become extremely asocial on the other side.

That’s why helping them deal with such matters is essential for their further progress and personality development.

Benefits of play therapy

So far, globally, over 60% of therapists reported that play therapy (such as our therapy ball) had been a valuable tool in treating their patients and brought positive changes in their behavior.

It’s not always easy for a child to interact with an adult, even while playing.

Sometimes, children are shy or not trusting the therapist since it’s not a child they’re facing with. However, with time, trust is growing, and children are relaxing. Usually, after some time, the child becomes more creative and more expressive, which is benefiting the process.

Some of the benefits play therapy might have are:

1. Understanding responsibility for behavior

2. Adopting problem-solving skills

3. Self-respect

4. Resolving different issues such as anxiety and asocial behavior

5. Developing empathy

6. Learning to express feelings

However, if your child is diagnosed with severe issues, play therapy is not a replacement for medications. It can be used along those for better effect.

Why Play?

Think of therapy for adults. Sitting opposite of your patient and asking questions to understand the emotional process better is something that works for adults. However, questioning a child is not as effective. That’s why play therapy is beneficial.

It creates a safe environment where the child feels protected and comfortable. Space needs to have different types of toys and aids (dolls, craft materials, etc.) Only in these cases, a child can adequately express their emotions and really get engaged in something.

It’s imperative to listen to a child and understand preferences pointing to the direction of the therapy. A pre-made therapy solution will not work since not every child is the same and not experiencing the same issues.

How does Play Therapy work?

Play therapy is mainly used for children between the ages of 3 to 12. It can help in solving different kinds of issues such as:

1. Chronic issues, palliative care, etc.

2. Learning disabilities

3. Problems in behavior at school

4. Family issues

5. Natural disaster traumas

6. Domestic violence or abuse


8. Aggressive or angry behavior

Since, as explained, children and adults may have a hard time communicating, whether to due child’s inability to express emotions or misunderstanding by adults, there’s something that should fill the gap - and that is play therapy.

For a child, it’s a place to feel safe and express their emotions that can have a more significant meaning if you know what you’re looking for.

Instead of trying to bring a child to an adult world, you can try to put yourself into theirs. That way, children will feel less pressured, as if they can do anything in their own time.

After the initial assessment, every therapist needs to make a plan. They need to set therapeutic goals and decide what limits might be necessary.

Sometimes, it’s good to divide play therapies into sessions with both parents, with only one of them, or teachers if the problem is at school. Then, an expert can observe the behavior of the child and find where the problem lies.

Much can be learned from the way a child interacts with toys and aids as well. That’s why changing the playing tools for each session might be crucial because it may evoke different feelings and different behaviors. The more therapists are aware of, the more they can help. The therapy itself can be directive and non-directive.

During directive therapy, the therapist chooses toys and tools with a specific purpose and leads the therapy towards a specific goal. On the other hand, non-directive therapy is a way to find out more about the child and unveil all the problems. Again, depending on the issue and the purpose of the therapy, a therapist will choose the appropriate method.

The techniques used for play therapy might include:

1. Creative visualization

2. Story-telling

3. Role-playing

4. Dolls, action figures, puppets, etc.

5. Water and sand play

6. Musical play

7. Dance and creative movements

To get the most out of play therapy, you should find a licensed mental health professional with experience in the field. Only then will you be sure you and your family are in the right hands.


To learn more about Rehabilitation through play visit >>



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