What is Play Therapy?

Play is to children what counseling or talk therapy is to adults. Play is the most natural form of expression for children.

Play therapy differs from regular play in that the trained play therapist helps children to develop problem solving skills, regulate their emotions, learn to communicate effectively and express their feelings. Play Therapy is the most developmentally appropriate approach to therapy with children.

Play Therapy is provided in a room specifically designed and equipped for play  therapy. The play room includes a variety of toys that are carefully chosen for their therapeutic powers in the play. Play is a child’s language and the toys are their words.

The Association for Play Therapy outlines the stages of play therapy which helps inform parents of what to expect and guides play therapists during the process. You may read about them here.

Click here to watch a short video on How Play Therapy Works!

What is Sand Tray therapy and activity therapy?

Sand tray therapy is essentially a type of play therapy. This type of therapy is often used with children, but can be applied to adults, teens, couples, families, and groups as well. Sand tray therapy allows a person to construct his or her own microcosm using miniature toys and colored sand. The scene created acts as a reflection of the person’s own life and allows him or her the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and gain acceptance of self.

Activity therapy is another form of play therapy utilized with older children and adolescents. This modality uses the same principles of play therapy, while engaging in activities such as building, constructing, balls, games, etc.)

What if my teenager refuses to attend therapy?

It’s very common to have teenagers refuse counseling services.

Here are some ways to address that resistance:

+Validate: “I see you’re nervous about seeing a counselor. It can be awkward and nerve-racking.” 

+Focus on the results of therapy: “Therapy can help you find relief from those (insert concern here) the nightmares that have been disturbing you lately.”

+Educate: “Licensed Professional Counselors are trained professionals that can help you understand what triggers your anxiety and ways to manage it.”

+Decision making: “Therapy is going to help us communicate better and make decisions together about what is best for you. If you choose to not go to therapy, you’re choosing for me to make those decisions with the Counselor on behalf of you.”

If you are still seeing resistance please call me and I can help you with more ways to help your teen seek therapy. If all else fails, give your teen some space to think over it. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to attend parent sessions alone so I can help you learn ways to respond to your teen at home, that can eventually lead them to therapy.

I’m afraid my teenager won’t stay in therapy consistently.

During my very first therapy appointment with your teenager, I explain to him/her that this time and space is for them, they get to be the boss and decide their course of therapy. I also let him know that my job is to support him and to help his parents better understand their needs.

This usually gives the teen an exhilarating sense of empowerment (which they really like!) and motivates them to continue to come to sessions. Because of my years of experience with teens, I know how to talk to them and how to establish a warm, pleasant relationship. Most of my teens love coming to therapy with me!

Does my child need play therapy?

In the process of growing up, most children experience difficulty coping at some time (at home, at school, with divorce and separation, with other children, etc.) or they exhibit behaviors which concern their parents or teacher. Some children may need more help than others in some areas. Generally, if you, your child’s teacher, or pediatrician is concerned about your child’s behavior or difficulty adjusting, play therapy is the recommended approach to help your child.

How can play therapy benefit me and my child?

Play therapy can provide a child with a developmentally appropriate way of accessing feelings so that therapeutic healing can occur.

Play therapy helps children develop problem solving skills, emotional regulation, respect and acceptance of self and others, responsibility and accountability for behaviors and self-awareness. Children in play therapy learn healthy communication, healthy expression of feelings, empathy, social skills, self-regulation and healthy boundaries.

The positive relationship between a therapist and child during play therapy is very important and can provide an experience that promotes well being and leads to emotional healing

As a therapist, I understand the importance of strengthening family bonds and attachment, therefore, she is committed to working with parents/caregivers. I also provide Child-Parent Relationship Training that includes the parent/caregiver as the therapeutic agent of change. You can find more information here.

How do I get started with therapy services for my child?

Please call 214.810.2156 to schedule an appointment. After your appointment is scheduled, you will be emailed intake forms that you can review, complete and sign online. These forms must be completed before the scheduled appointment.

The first appointment is an intake parent consult session with the caregiver(s) only. During this session, I inquire further about the child and family dynamics, gather a thorough developmental history, answer questions, discuss goals and what to expect during the counseling process.

How long are play therapy sessions?

Each play therapy session usually lasts 45 minutes, (30 minutes for toddlers). Sessions are typically held weekly.

How long does my child need to be in therapy?

Every child’s concerns and struggles are unique and personal, hence their healing journeys are also very unique and at their own pace. The length of counseling varies for each child. A positive relationship with the therapist is key in play therapy; the child needs sufficient time to develop a trusting and warm therapeutic relationship with the therapist in order to feel safe enough to express to the therapist through toys, sand, or expressive arts, his/her child’s world view and perceptions of experiences.

Research suggests that it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions to resolve the problems of the typical child referred for treatment. However, it’s important to note that some children may improve much faster while more serious or ongoing problems may take longer to resolve.

What do I tell my child about play therapy?

Here are some examples:

Today you are going to play with a new friend.  I went to meet her last week and she has a whole room full of toys!  I can come in with you the first time if you like or you can go in by yourself.  I will stay in the waiting room the entire session and wait for you.”

“Counseling is a safe place where you play with a new friend and learn about feelings.”

“This new friend is going to help us figure out some new ways to be together.”

How can I be more involved in my child’s therapy?

I am committed to working with parents/caregivers.

After every 3-4 play therapy sessions, a parent consult will be scheduled. During this session, I will discuss progress in the playroom and at home, re-assess goals & treatment plan, address parents’ concerns and help parents gain a better understanding of their child.

Families play an important role in children’s healing processes. The interaction between children’s problems and their families is always complex. Sometimes children develop problems as a way of signaling that there is something wrong in the family. Other times the entire family becomes distressed because the child’s problems are so disruptive. In all cases, children and families heal faster when they work together.

I will make some decisions about how and when to involve some or all members of the family in the play therapy. At a minimum, I will want to communicate regularly with the parent/caregiver(s) to develop a plan for resolving problems as they are identified and to monitor the progress of the treatment. Other options might include involving a) the parents/caregiver(s) directly in the treatment by modifying how they interact with the child at home and b) the whole family in family play therapy.

What if I can’t afford your counseling fee?

Consistency is an important part of therapy and growth. If counseling services are difficult for you to afford at this point, in order to provide consistent therapy for yourself or your child, I’d be happy to provide with some referrals in the community that provide therapy services for community members on a sliding scale based on your hardship. Here are some places to get started:

Galaxy Counseling – Garland, TX 972.272.4429

Family Tree Counseling – Plano, TX  214.230.1234

How can CPRT (Child Parent Relationship Training) help my child?

When children experience a play relationship in which they feel accepted, understood and cared for, they play out many of their problems and in the process, release tensions, feelings and burdens. You child will then feel better about him/her self, and will be able to discover own strengths and assume greater self-responsibility as he/she takes charge in the play situations.

How your child feels about her/himself will make a significant difference in their behavior. In the special play times where you learn to focus on your child rather than your child’s problem, your child will begin to react differently because how your child behaves, how he/she thinks, and performs in school are directly related to how he/she feels about him/herself. When your child feels better about him/herself, he/she will behave in more self-enhancing ways than self-defeating ways.

Still got questions? Call me for a free 15 minute consultation at 214.810.2156 or send me a message.