How Play Therapy Works for Kids

How Play Therapy Works for Kids

by Kara Ferreira

If you have a young child, you might be wondering how therapy would be able to help them. Play therapy is a psychotherapeutic tool that allows children between the ages of 3 and 12 to express their emotions in a way that is comfortable for them.

A trained therapist will observe the child playing so that they can see their choices and decisions. Play therapy can also be used to help children communicate about past events. This approach may be used by both psychologists and psychiatrists. Behavioral and occupational therapists and social workers may also be trained in and utilize the technique.

How Play Therapy Works

Play therapy meets children at their developmental level, enabling them to express themselves through play activities. This is often easier for children than verbal communication. Through playful interactions, the therapist can help redirect inappropriate behaviors, teach coping skills and improve social behaviors and communication. Parents, siblings or other family members might be asked to join in a play therapy session.

When Play Therapy Might Be Recommended for Your Child

Children who need to learn to communicate better, change their behavior, improve their problem-solving skills may benefit from play therapy. It is often recommended for children with attention deficit disorders and for those with an autism spectrum disorder.

Play therapy is also appropriate for children in stressful situations such as experiencing illness, and for children navigating difficult times of transition such as divorce or loss. It can be a useful tool to help children process trauma.

What to Expect

The therapist will often first meet with the parent or caregiver either alone or with the child, before observing the child at play. The therapist will then use their observations to create a therapeutic plan.

Sessions range from 30-45 minutes in length and usually take place on a weekly basis. Each session, the therapist may choose to direct the type of play, indicating which toys and activities the child can engage in, or they may give the child freer rein to choose.

Toys might include phones, puppets, stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, blocks and puzzles. Activities might include storytelling, role-playing, dance and arts and crafts.

If you’d like to explore working with a therapist, contact us at (734) 323-4897 or for more information. Our practice, based in Novi, Michigan, is home to a range of psychologists with a wide range of expertise.

G3 is grateful to have our therapist, Jennifer Gauvin, who is trained in play therapy and is currently pursuing credentialing as a Play Therapist. G3 has all of the special equipment and toys used in play therapy as part of our dedicated play therapy room.

Kara is a G3 Contributing Writer.


Healthline, How Play Therapy Treats and Benefits Children and Some Adults

Psychology Today, Play Therapy