Child and Family Counseling Center, San Diego, offices in Del Mar and Encinitas
Play Therapy

Why Play?

Girl PlayingPlay is a natural and important activity for children. It is the natural language for communication and expression of feelings. In fact, Maria Montessori believed that play was “child’s work”.

Through play experiences, children can clarify and master many basic physical, social, emotional and intellectual skills and concepts.

Play is the “vehicle” through which children develop new thinking skills. And, play has potential healing power. We can understand children if we understand their play.

This is why treatment of childhood emotional and behavioral problems is conducted through play.

How Does Play Therapy Work?

A licensed therapist with specialized training in play therapy creates a safe atmosphere in which the child can express himself/herself, learn more effective ways of communicating, learn about rules, and “play” through their problems.

The Play Therapist introduces the child to the play room which has a wide variety of carefully selected toys, games, puppets, sandtray, and art supplies.

The child is allowed to select toys and direct how she or he wants to play. The Play Therapist pays close attention to the child’s play activity and feelings.

Sometimes, the Play Therapist participates in the play with the child. It is through this relationship with the Therapist that the child can express himself/herself.

When the child feels accepted, understood and valued, therapeutic progress can be made. And, because families play an important role in a child’s health, family members may sometimes be included in the play therapy.

How Will Play Benefit My Child?

Research shows the effectiveness of play therapy with children who are experiencing emotional, social, behavioral and learning problems, including aggression/anger, anxiety/fear, shyness, depression, ADHD, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress, learning difficulties, bedwetting, sleep difficulties, and eating difficulties.

Play therapy is also effective with children experiencing stress related to divorce, hospitalization, chronic illness, physical/sexual abuse, domestic violence, natural disasters (e.g., fire, earthquake), death, accidents.

Because play has potential healing power, by replaying a traumatic experience such as an accident or emergency operation, a child can overcome fear and anxiety. In this form of play, the child changes her/his role from victim to “victor,” thereby gaining reassurance, comfort and a sense of control.

How Do I Find a Play Therapist?

The practice of play therapy requires specialized training and experience. A Play Therapist is, first, a mental health professional with at least a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Counseling, Social Work, or closely related field.

A Play Therapist should also be licensed to practice therapy, consistent with their degree. With advanced, specialized training and supervision of clinical experience, the therapist may also become a Registered Play Therapist (RPT) or a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S). To find a Play Therapist, you may contact:

Association for Play Therapy
2050 N. Winery Ave, #101
Fresno , CA 93707
Phone: (559) 252-2278