Therapeutic Play

Therapeutic Play is a method of therapy for children who are experiencing mild to moderate social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.

This therapeutic process allows children to help themselves overcome difficulties as they play out their feelings and struggles in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space.

The Therapeutic Play Practitioner is responsible for creating a safe, confidential space for the child to freely explore their inner thoughts and feelings. All equipment in the playroom is specifically chosen for the benefit of the child’s therapeutic process. As Therapeutic Play is a non-directive approach to therapy, the child is free to choose how they would like to play and express their inner thoughts and struggles.

In order for the child to gain insight, the practitioner may mirror what the child is doing or saying. Over a number of sessions, the child and practitioner develop a trusting therapeutic relationship. Through this relationship, the child is able to work through inner struggles and trauma at their own pace to ultimately help themselves to heal.

the therapeautic play continuum

Play: Play is a leisure activity that children undertake purely for enjoyment. It has no other objective other than amusement.

Play Work: This is the kind of play that children in nursery or primary school take part in. Teachers use this kind of play as part of the education process.

Therapeutic Play: Therapeutic Play is a non-directive method of therapy, utilising creative arts that can be used to help children experiencing mild to moderate difficulties. A Certified Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills is registered with Play Therapy UK, takes part in regular clinical supervision and abides by the Ethical and Professional standards set by the Register.

Play Therapy: Play Therapy uses a wide range of creative arts techniques, both directive and non-directive, to ease mild to chronic psychological and emotional struggles that a child may be experiencing. An Accredited Play Therapist is required to attend supervision and is also mandated to adhere to Play Therapy UK’s Ethical and Professional standards.

Child Psychotherapy/psychology/psychiatry: These well-established disciplines can help children with diagnosed conditions and severe difficulties.

As play is the child’s natural medium of self-expression, traditional talking therapies are not as effective as play can be when used in a therapeutic setting.

Play allows the child to access trauma and emotions stored in the primitive brain – the amygdala, brain stem and hippocampus.

Play increases Oxytocin levels in the brain, which increases the brain’s plasticity and allows the child to feel a deep sense of trust and well-being.

Young children struggle to express their emotions and feelings in words as the frontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for executive functioning and logical thinking, is not yet fully developed.

Therapeutic Play can help with bereavement and loss, separated or divorced parents, behavioural problems at home or school, social or emotional problems, bullies or bullied children, children who are withdrawn or have angry outbursts, experience bedwetting, nightmares and/or stress and anxieties.

The tools that are used in the playroom include sand play, creative visual arts, clay, puppetry, movement, music, creative visualisation and therapeutic storytelling.

Therapy is either short term, 12 sessions, or medium term, 24 sessions.

The first parent/child/therapist meeting takes place in the playroom and lasts about 45 minutes. In this meeting the therapist gathers some background information and discusses what outcomes we hope to achieve as a result of therapy. This meeting also give the parent and child an opportunity to ask questions about Therapeutic Play and for the child to become acquainted with the equipment in the room. An important part of this meeting is the discussion around confidentiality and informed consent as well as what information will be used by PTUK for research purposes.

Each session is 45 minutes long. The sessions take place at the same day and time every week. It is important for the parent and child to commit to this as consistency is vital in the therapeutic process.

After 8 sessions a review parent/child/therapist meeting will take place. During this meeting the hopeful outcomes that were outlined in the first meeting are discussed and changes in the child’s experiences and behaviour is talked over. The child also has an opportunity to share his/her own feelings about the therapy and is decision is made between all three parties about whether we will bring therapy to an end after 12 sessions or if there is a need to continue for a further 12 sessions.

As the child’s own opinion and needs are an important part of the therapy process, the child needs to present at every meeting.