Child Play Therapy: Understanding the Tools and Techniques of the Therapy Setting

Child play therapy is a type of interaction that helps children who have experienced trauma or abuse learn to cope with the negativity or confusing emotions related to the situation. By giving the child one-on-one time, which is very important for children who lack attention from parents or authority figures, he or she can engage and lead the therapist in discussion and play or talk when they wish to, providing an open and honest form of communication.

The Props and Toys

At the core of the child play therapy process are the toys and props found within the therapy room. Having a wide variety of styles and variations gives the child a blank canvas on which to express his or her emotions. For instance, nurturing toys, like the dollhouse and baby dolls, and aggressive toys, like the dragon and weapons, gives the child several choices for reenacting situations and showcasing different emotions. Another key part of the process, bendable people, let the young boy or girl explain events that
involve family members and friends.

Evaluating the Sessions

How the children play and interact with the therapist during the discussion can tell a lot about their inner emotions. For instance,
working with the aggressive toys and having a reenactment in which these objects show anger or violence toward the nurturing or sensitive toys can open up the door to discussing a traumatic or negative event. Often, boys show more aggression during these
sessions with grunting and physical play, while girls vocalize feelings and emotions during the storytelling that often accompanies the playtime.

As the sessions continue, the child naturally becomes more comfortable and open. From here, fostering open communications
can move from the playroom to the home. Finding what motivates the child and working with them to either curb negative behavior or cope with a traumatic event is the end goal of this process and can help parents connect in a more meaningful way with their children moving forward.

Kathleen Mills

Kathleen is a creative and gifted therapist who has extensive experience in helping children, adolescents, and adults with a variety of issues.