How does therapeutic play work?

During play therapy a safe, confidential and caring environment is created which allows the child to engage in imaginative play, art and craft, or movement and dance in order to both express and process thoughts and feelings.  Play and creativity operate on impulses from outside our awareness - the unconscious. This allows healing to occur on many levels.

During play therapy, the therapist may reflect back to the child observations of what has happened during the session as a means of validation and encouragement. Above all the child is given “Special Time.”  So often in modern life we never seem to have enough time to slow down and discover who we are or we need from others.  For the child this type of reflection is accomplished through play.  When greater coping skills are needed, the child is given strategies to cope with difficulties they face in life and which they themselves cannot change.  As the child's resiliency increases, he or she will develop a more positive view of the future thereby decreasing emotional distress.

Typical therapist sessions may last from 30 to 45 minutes.  A variety of techniques - 'the Play Therapy Toolkit' are used according to the child’s needs.  These may include:

Therapeutic play, (including play therapy) , is a well established discipline based upon a number of psychological theories. The first recorded use of therapeutic play goes back to 1919. Probably the most important contributions to modern practice are the work of Virginia Axline and Violet Oaklander. Two major approaches are 'Non-directive play therapy' and 'Directive play therapy'.  Research, both qualitative and quantitative shows that play therapy is a highly effective means of helping children with approximately 71% of the children referred to play therapy showing a positive change.  For more information visit