A Practical Guide to Play Therapy

A Practical Guide to Play Therapy

A Practical Guide to Play Therapy

A Practical Guide to Play Therapy


A practical guide that introduces readers to key concepts, practice considerations and techniques for play therapy.


“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

Sixteen year-old Jen sat quietly, the feeding tube conspicuously protruding from her nose. We sat in silence as she stared at the lumps of Play-Doh® on the table. Slowly her hands reached for the yellow and she began to form the members of her family and carefully place them.

Nine year-old Jake aimed the play gun at me. Calmly, I stated that I wasn’t for shooting, but that he could shoot “Boppie.” After a few seconds hesitation, he unloaded the rubber, suction-cupped darts onto the sturdy blow-up figure. After all the darts were gone, Jake charged “Boppie” and began to empty his rage onto it with pounding fists, swift kicks, and a guttural scream.

Sometimes, words are not enough – as evidenced by the Plato quotation at the beginning of this chapter. Have you ever heard another counselor or counseling student complain that a particular child or adolescent just won’t talk about what is going on with them? He or she is frustrated because the client won’t (or can’t) put into words what is bothering him or her. This is the very situation where play therapy becomes an invaluable tool.

Why Play

When working with anyone, we must look at that person from a developmental perspective. What is it that children are drawn to and choose to engage in most? —Play. Children (and adults) often do not have the verbal or abstract capacity to communicate verbally what they are experiencing (Kottman, 1995; Kottman, 2001). Play, however, comes naturally and is a primary means of communication for children (Kottman, 2001; Landreth, 2002). Piaget (1962 – in Landreth) also saw play as a bridge between the concrete and abstract cognitive developmental stages. It is also difficult for children to contain their energy and focus for long periods of time— whereas with play, this energy can be focused into something constructive (Landreth, 2002).

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