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Types of Play Therapy

By Holly Willard

coloringWhy Use Play?

Most parents have had the experience of hearing their words (good or bad) reflected in their child’s play.  Here’s why: Play is the primary way that children:

  • Learn about their world,
  • Understand how things work,
  • Express themselves,
  • Develop new physical skills,
  • Develop new mental skills, and
  • Develop social skills and bonds.

We can understand our children better if we understand their play.  By watching children play, we often learn more about their thoughts, feelings, motivations, and struggles than by talking with them! Play has been called the “language of childhood” and if we learn (or relearn) that language, we can build more satisfying relationships with our children.

Non-directive Play Therapy

Non-directive play or client-centered therapy allows the child to direct the play.  The therapist uses reflective listening to encourage expression of feelings and observes behavior.  Non-directive methods show unconditional acceptance and build trust. Children gain understanding of their problems and work toward their own solutions.

Directive Play Therapy

In directive play therapy, the therapist plays a bigger role and encourages the child to engage in specific activities.  Directive play has an identified topic and goal.  It is also used to teach children skills.

Types of Play

Assessment Play- Therapist observes child in numerous play to evaluate attachment, developmental level, mental health status, etc.

Expressive Arts Therapy-  Drawing, painting, clay, poetry, dance/movement, etc.

Biblotherapy- Uses books to explore and teach concepts.

Filial Therapy (Child Parent Relationships)- Filial therapy (CPR) is a unique approach to therapy that emphasizes the parent-child relationship as a means of alleviating and preventing problems. The parent is involved in play therapy and taught how to implement methods in home.

Sand Tray Therapy-  the child uses symbols to tell their story in the sand.  Emphasizes tactile and sensory mediums.

Imaginary Play– dress up, doll houses, kitchen, puppets, blocks, etc.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”  Plato

References: Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book (Vol. 16) by L. VandeCreek, S. Knapp, and T.L., Jackson (des.)