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Play Therapy - it takes a lot of slow to grow....


Play therapy (including expressive arts) is an effective and powerful way to help children overcome problems and traumas they experience in their lives. Neutral limit setting and giving age-appropriate choices whenever possible facilitate children's development of responsibility and decision making skills.


The natural reaction of children is to re-enact or play out experiences in an effort to comprehend, overcome, reconcile, and develop a sense of control over their experiences. This includes use of sandtray, artwork, clay, writing, music,  collage, and photography. This repetitive playing out or expression of experiences is a natural self-healing process.


Play is children's most important (and uncensored) work (besides going to school). Play therapy is a developmentally research-based approach to supporting this work. The keys to play therapy are to observe and/or direct, facilitate, and reflect behaviors and emotional responses through children's natural play.


The basic healing interventions of play therapy (& good parenting) are to facilitate feelings of confidence, mastery, & responsibility:

Notice what children do and how they do it. This increases kids'awareness of their actions and choices. Example: "I see you stomping your feet. "I hear you using your manners."

Reflect observable expression of feelings and possible underlying emotions. This increases kids' awareness of their own internal experiences. Example: "You are crying; you are sad about something."

Return responsibility and avoid doing things for kids that they can do for themselves, even if the child displays inadequacy ("I can't." "You do it." "Help me.") Encourage children to at least try before you offer assistance.  Example: "You can try this on your own." "I bet you can figure it out." "I know you'll clean up the milk you spilled."

Credit all positive and honest efforts. Describe, don't praise actions. (This allows kids to begin to recognize how good it feels to try, to achieve, and to problem solve for self.) Example:  "You decided to do the best thing." "You worked at that until you figured it out."

Give age-appropriate choices wherever possible. This builds self reliance, self confidence, and self initiative and provides flexibility that can prevent power struggles.  Example: "You can wear one of these 3 outfits today." "What would you like for your vegetable tonight, corn or peas?"

Set reasonable limits. This helps kids learn to internalize a sense of discipline & structure as well as provides safety & containment.) Example: "Please clean your room today by noon so we can go to the movies. (and if it doesn't happen: "I see you decided not to go to the movies with us today.") "You can't throw the ball in the house, but you can take it outside."I


Use this link to learn more about the goals and therapeutic uses of play therapy, and the toys and materials that are utilized in this type of therapy.


For more information, visit the following links:


Training workshop - Introduction to Play Therapy

Parents’ reading list

Association for Play Therapy (


Phone: 404-702-2007 - (voice mail)


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