So what is this term play therapy? The term “play therapy” gets thrown around a lot especially when working with kiddos. But what does it actually mean? Do therapists just play with kids? I am going to take a few moments to tell you exactly what play therapy is and why it can be so amazing.

Play therapy is a clinical treatment modality that not only targets disorders but can be used to improve specific skills such as inattention, emotional identification and expression, and team work. Play therapy allows the child to process internal issues in a non threatening way. If I ask a child about their trauma, that can be very intrusive and feel like an interrogation. If I invite the child into a room with certain toys, I could either ask them to show me what bad thing happened (direct) or allow the child to create what he or she wants (indirect). Often they will recreate what is going on in their lives. I see this if the trauma is recent. When trauma is in the past it takes awhile to uncover. Non-direct interventions allow the child to move treatment on their own terms and resolves what their inner-self feels is needed at that moment. Which that is exactly why PT is so amazing and wonderful. Children and teens can resolve the inner turmoil and never say a word.

Now next thing, play is always important but having a clinician that can navigate the clinical treatment of play is different. A trained play therapist can assess the internal world, play themes, and help generate movement. All therapist start somewhere. When I started I had no idea what I was doing when it came to play therapy but I would often just sit there allowing the child to do what they needed to do! They self actualize. I provider a safe and non-judgmental space and they did the work.

If you are a therapist and new to play therapy get to reading, podcast, Facebook groups, blogs, whatever you can to increase your knowledge; and of course supervisor/consultation. If you have your child in treatment with a therapist ask about their training, their intentions to grow as a therapist and if they are under supervision. I respect and value being a Registered Play Therapist but I firmly hold the position that you do not need to be a RPT to be an effective child therapist- you do however need to be using play, know how to analyze play and attachment, and help your clients move forward.