Why Play Therapy Works

By Marilee Woolstenhulme, CSW

stacking-rocksPlay Therapy works because all forms of play therapy, whether directive or non-directive, honor the child’s capacity for self-actualization, which empowers a child and produces self-confidence.
When a trained play therapist enters a play room with a child, a rapport is built in a safe environment, which allows the child to trust the process will facilitate healing. Special time is devoted to the child, typically on a weekly basis, which represents to the child a commitment to their emotional well-being by a caring adult. The play therapist’s language reflects back to the child the emotional and physical content of the play, which facilitates self-discovery and emotional intelligence.

A journey that might otherwise be painful for the child is softened by the use of imagination, creative expression, and the endless potential of make-believe. Often, what is too difficult to say with words can be said by dolls, puppets, paints, or clay, among many other mediums of play.

Finally, play therapy works because play is the most natural form of expression that children use, and without fully developed cognitive abilities to express themselves verbally, play promotes therapeutic growth in ways that talk therapy simply could not.