What is Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is an excellent way for children with emotional and behavioral problems to heal. Filial or dyadic play therapies, that include the child and parent(s) can help improve attachment and relationship.
Play therapy is the use of play within therapy to help a child:
Express their emotions
Communicate about their internal sensations including feeling, thoughts and bodily sensations (i.e., tense muscles)
Communicate about their external experiences such as traumas
Learn concepts that are helpful in processing experiences and learning concepts such as coping skills or cognitive strategies
Develop a cohesive narrative that integrates both their life stories as well as both positive and negative emotions related to those
Build relationship with the therapist and parents
Children use play to express themselves. Due to age and cognitive development, children do not have the language for expression. Garry Landreth, a well-known play therapist/professor describes play as the child’s language.
The Association for Play Therapy defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
“Play therapy is based upon the fact that play is the child’s natural medium of self expression. It is an opportunity which is given to the child to “play out” his feelings and problems, just as in certain types of adult therapy, an individual “talks out” his difficulties.” Virginia Axline
“Play, more so than dialogue, is the key process kids use to solve problems.” Tania Bryan, Help for Families
“Enter into children’s play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts, and souls meet.” Viginia Axline
Who does Play Therapy?
Credentialed play therapists through the Association for Play Therapy have training and supervised experiences in play therapy. The credentials for play therapy are the Registered Play Therapist and the Registered Play Therapist Supervisor. At Chrysalis we have both RPT and RPT-S and licensed mental health professionals under supervision to earn their credentials as Registered Play Therapists. For more information about the requirements for credentialing please go to
To see therapists in the area who are credentialed as Registered Play Therapists or Registered Play Therapist Supervisors see https://www.a4pt.org/page/TherapistDirectory
Supervision in Play Therapy:
Dr. Angela Cavett is a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor and provides supervision related to play therapy to licensed mental health professionals. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“You can disover more about a man in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato
What ages of children can benefit from Play Therapy?
Play Therapy can be beneficial for people from birth through adulthood. For little ones, the play therapy is most often done with the parent and child. Often people do not know that play therapies, such as First Play, are helpful for infants and toddlers in order to strengthen attachment between the child and parent which is the foundation for emotional development and regulation. For children 4-12, play therapy is the treatment of choice. It is considered developmentally appropriate meaning that the child’s communication, cognitive and social understanding influence how the child communicates in session. Although children may not be able to express as much with words, they can through their play. Adolescents may also use play therapy! Often adolescents use art in play therapy or the sandtray to enhance their communication and therefore the ability to both express experiences and process the information. Even adults benefit from play therapy. This is especially true when words do not adequately express what they have experienced but they can use art and play to express it. For instance, narratives in the sand tray can allow for powerful expression that goes beyond words.
How does the environment facilitate play therapy?
In play therapy, toys are the tools used for the child to communicate. Chrysalis spaces are set up to facilitate optimal expression of feelings, thoughts and experiences, to provide evocative symbols for expression. A play therapy room allows for children to express feelings, thoughts and experiences. Often there are doll houses with figures, puppets, and art supplies. A safe place such as a fort, egg chair, or tent may be present.
At Chrysalis we have play therapy spaces that facilitate healing. These include:
5 play therapy rooms
Sand tray/play therapy rooms
Trauma-informed yoga and drumming in play therapy space
Gardens including a labyrinth, active garden, and sensory garden
Sensory room, wall and walk