Play Therapy Techniques

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Children enjoy all different kinds of play. Both active and quiet play serve purposes in children's social and cognitive development. Running around outdoors or on a playground provides exercise to kids and a healthy outlet for their boundless energy. Quiet play, on the other hand, develops fine motor skills and cognitive learning. That much is common knowledge in the modern era, but fewer people may realize how play can function as a method of healing as well.

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is defined as a method of counseling that utilizes play as a means of communication with children that attempts to resolve psychological challenges. It has been theorized that play therapy benefits social integrations, emotional modulation, and trauma recovery as well as standard growth and development.

How Does it Work?

Trained therapists use specific toys and activities to help children work through problems or issues and have demonstrated positive correlations in a child's ability to feel positive emotions, strengthen attachments to their therapist, and improve verbal or nonverbal communication of feelings.

Play therapy techniques are also frequently used as a diagnostic tool. If a child is being treated for antisocial behavior, the therapist will begin the sessions by letting a child play with toys that reflect real-life things or situations, such as dolls, stuffed animals, or play-houses. They will then observe the way the child interacts with their play therapy toys, termed Children's Play Therapy Instruments (CPTI) by the Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research. Based on how the child uses or abuses the CPTI, the therapist can assess that behavior as an indicator for potential root causes of the child's problematic tendencies.