The ABC’s of Play Therapy


Review by Sharlene Christensen, CMHC, RPT ABC

On May 10th at Weber State University many therapists and graduate students had the opportunity to learn “The ABC’s of Play Therapy” from Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT-S. In this workshop, Ms. Mellenthin graciously shared information she has gained from her years of experience as a successful therapist and professor. Those in attendance were able to learn more about play therapy theory and learn play therapy techniques to enhance their therapeutic work with children and families.

Ms. Mellenthin described how play therapy could help a child gain insight and resolve psychosocial difficulties. She explained how play is a natural form of expression for a child and how the toys in the playroom become the language in which a child can safely communicate their thoughts and feelings to the therapist. She reviewed child development and how this relates to the therapeutic process.

The therapeutic play continuum and theory were discussed. Ms. Mellenthin outlined the stages of therapeutic play including relationship or rapport building, assessment, therapeutic play and resolution. She explained how research supports play therapy and she led an informative discussion about how counseling theory and approaches are woven into play therapy practice and techniques. She discussed play therapy in regards to the psychoanalytic, humanistic, behavioral, ecosystemic, client-centered, Gestalt, and reality therapy.

Ms. Mellenthin explained which toys are most useful to have in the play therapy room and she showed participants how to create a portable playroom in any space. It was fun to see Ms. Mellenthin pull toy after toy out of her Mary Poppins like portable play therapy bag. Her bag of tricks included items such as a magic wand, animals, puppets, doll families, balls, military figures, a doctor’s kit, play food, markers, crayons, paper and more.

Ms. Mellenthin also taught the group specific play therapy techniques.  She utilized M&M’s, Nerf guns, pinwheels, bubbles and many other fun items to demonstrate effective techniques for working with anxious and depressed children. She described how to use balloons to help children with grief and loss issues. She led the group through a relaxation technique that can be particularly helpful for children that have experienced abuse or trauma. She also demonstrated several fun techniques that are helpful when conducting family therapy. Additionally, she recommended many wonderful resources, books, and videos. She even shared her newly published book “The Many Colors of Me” that can be a great tool for play therapists.  It is available if you email Clair directly or go to her website at

Ms. Mellenthin is the newly elected president of The Utah Association for Play Therapy. She is the Clinical Director for Wasatch Family Therapy. She is a supervisor for graduate students and therapists seeking to become certified in play therapy. She is also a great resource to the community as she frequently shares her expertise through professional trainings and often appears on local TV and radio broadcasts.

If you missed out on this training you will have another opportunity to see Ms. Mellenthin as she will be presenting again this fall. UAPT will also have more excellent trainings coming soon. Be sure to check out the website for more info.

One comment on “The ABC’s of Play Therapy

  1. […] -If you happened to miss the recent conference in Utah on “The ABCs of Play Therapy”, he...

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