What is Play Therapy?

Sometimes people might wonder about the effectiveness of play therapy as a form of treatment and think that it’s just play. However, play therapy is not just play. While the child might be enjoying the toys provided they may be unaware that there is a lot that’s being expressed and understood. 

Young children communicate through play. In play therapy, a neutral space is provided where the child is free to assume the control they so rarely experience living in a world run by adults. Play allows children to express what it feels like to be them. The play therapist reflects back to the child what they observe, which allows the child to discover different ways of coping with their difficulties.




Any child may not be reaching their potential for a variety of reasons, such as:


  • finding it difficult to concentrate or learn

  • experiencing nightmares or disturbed sleep

  • being at risk of exclusion from school

  • having suffered trauma

  • divorce/separation

  • anxiety, stress or phobias

  • depression

  • loss or bereavement

  • being withdrawn or continually unhappy

  • finding it difficult to make friends

  • bullying others or being bullied

  • quarreling frequently with peers or siblings

Play therapy can help a child make sense of events and alleviate difficult and confusing feelings.


What happens in a session?

Each session is 45 minutes long. The recommended minimum number of sessions is 12 but sometimes more time is needed. The therapist meets with the parents/carers and with teachers if the therapy takes place at school to talk about the child's difficulties and how they are effecting the child, family and school. They will also ask for any relevant background information. As sessions progress they will track any changes and decide, with the parents/carers and teachers if more sessions are appropriate.

The play room is equipped with toys and materials that have been carefully selected to enable free expression without necessarily needing to talk . They include:

  • a sand tray and a selection of figures and symbols that enable the child to create pictures or stories in the sand

  • puppets

  • masks

  • dressing up clothes

  • musical instruments

  • art materials including paint and clay

  • a doll's house and people

  • games

  • books

  • building blocks

  • baby dolls

  • games

The therapist puts in place simple boundaries and the child is able to choose how they play and what they play with. Sometimes the therapist may direct activities if they feel it may be helpful