What is Therapeutic play?
Play is the occupation of children, through play they...
Make sense of their world and experiences
Express their thoughts and feelings
Practice important developmental skills
regulation and management of emotional experiences
Play should be
Play therapy Then & Now
The therapeutic benefits of play were recognized as early as 1909 and with contributions from many pioneering therapists over the years. Early play therapy began with the concept of interpretation of play as a symbolic language for children. Additional theories underlying the development of specific play models including emphasis on humanistic and relational viewpoints. More recent models have expanded focused on the integration of caregiver coaching into play therapy sessions.
Principles of Therapeutic Play
The child is accepted exactly how they are
Emphasis on a permissive relationship to allow the child to feel free to express themselves
The therapist recognizes and reflects feelings back to the child in order to gain insight into their behavior
The therapist creates opportunities for the child to problem solve and make choices, respecting their ability to do so.
The child leads the way and the therapist or parent follows.
The child sets the pace
Limits are only established during a play therapy session when needed.
Parents as play partners
You know your child the best and have unique attributes that contribute to your child's success.
Parents can contribute a great deal of information and insight during private meetings with the therapist that may help guide the direction of therapy. During the play sessions with your child you will receive coaching and feedback on the following skills.
Functional limit setting
self-esteem building and encouragement
circles of communication
Freedom phrases & returning responsibility
problem solving methods
Role playing/ practicing
The importance of "special play time"
Toy selection for therapeutic play
Play interventions are focused on allowing the child opportunity for expression. Toys should be selected that provide a variety of options for expression, are durable, engage the child's interest and are not complex
Do use these toys
Creative expression toys (sand, paints, crayons, scissors, paper, egg cartons, playdoh, pipe cleaners...)
Real- life toys/ nuturing (dolls, bottles, play kitchen/ food, cars, dress up)
Aggressive release/ scary toys (blow up punching bag, puppets of aggressive animals, nerf gun, handcuffs/ police outfit, disposable items like egg cartons)
Toys to avoid in play therapy
Games with rules
books/ puzzles or items that have limited uses
toys with lights and sounds
ipads or tablets
Your therapist will guide you on building strategies for this important key strategy in therapeutic play. When responding in the therapeutic play environment it is important to remember the key principles including Unconditional Acceptance.
Landreth's "Be With" attitudes: Your intent with actions, presence and the way you respond should always coney to the child...
"I am here- I hear you- I understand - I care - I delight in you"
Verbally track what you observe in the child's play let's them know you are paying attention and interested i.e. "You are fillig up the cup"
Reflect the child's feelings from their perspective, i.e. "You are proud you made that tower".
Join the child's play as a follower not a leader
Encourage effort and recognize opportunities to build self-esteem, i.e. "You know just how that goes on there. You worked hard on that and got it on."
Set firm and consistent limits only when necessary which gives the child an opportunity to develop self-control. "I know you are having fun but the carpet is not for cutting."
Maintain body language that shows the child you are interested, facing towards them and leaning in.
critize any behavior, even ones that could be perceived as aggressive
Give specific praise or external validation
Ask leading questions
Give information or teach
Initiate new activities or guide towards a specific activity
Be passive or quiet
Allow outside interruptions
(adapted from Guerney, 1972)
Play interventions across settings
Integrating therapeutic play concepts is beneficial in many settings from homes to hospitals to schools. Play therapy concepts allow the child to develop confidence and internal sense of control to make choices, improve self-esteem, allow opportunity for expression and a means for understanding their world and how to relate to others. Evidence supports that play therapy interventions