Play Therapy

Play therapy with tea kettlePlay Therapy is an opportunity for a child to learn new skills in an environment that makes sense to them. I am a Registered Play Therapist and am specifically trained in play techniques to assist your child meet their goals.

The Association for Play Therapy defines play therapy as a “way of being with the child that honors their unique developmental level and looks for ways of helping in the ‘language’ of the child…to better express themselves and resolve their problems.” To learn more, please visit their website at http://www.a4pt.org/ under Why Play Therapy?

In session, we do not ‘just play.’ I provide opportunities for your child to grow and create, while I assess their needs. With this information, I support your family through parenting adaptations and recommendations; as well as teaching your child new skills. These skills can include: reducing anger, controlling impulsiveness, improving social skills, learning calming skills and so much more.

Is play therapy right for your child?

Deciding whether or not play therapy is right for your child is fairly simple. Play therapy is highly recommended for children 8 years or younger. It is optional for children older than 8 years old.

Play therapy is great for children with ADHD as it helps teach essential skills that are frequently requested by parents. We are able to help your child listen, slow down, stop anger, and almost any other thing that may frustrated the family.

Play therapy is also great for children with Aspergers. We use play therapy as a way to create social skills, practice building friendships, learning flexibility, managing anger and much much more.

Regardless of diagnosis, play therapy can be the best therapy for most children.


Why choose a Registered Play Therapist?

Although you will find many counselors advertise play therapy, please note that they may not be trained and certified by the Association for Play Therapy. This certification is important as it requires additional years of education, training, and supervision. Therefore, as a Registered Play Therapist I may be more qualified to meet your needs.

I have specifically chosen to focus my training as a Registered Play Therapist in the areas of ADHD, and the autism spectrum. Although these are my focuses, I also have experience in many other childhood difficulties.

What does a Play Therapy session look like?

Play therapy sessions vary session-by-session and are dependent on the child. Typically, sessions will be only with your child and myself. I have found that most children behave differently with a family member present. As a result, I recommend the majority of sessions to be individual. Of course, this may differ for younger children or children with separation anxieties.

You will find that some weeks you are invited into session.The goal of this time is to share the ‘homework.’ These are opportunities for you to learn more about our learned activities and to assist in implementing them at home. This will only occur in some sessions.

Parent coaching with play therapy sessions

Parent coaching is essential in reaching goals. I have found active parent participation can dramatically reduce the length of time in counseling for children and teens. Parent involvement is critical for achieving goals.

The goal of  parent sessions is to teach you the skills to maintain progress outside of session. Your child ‘works hard and plays harder’ to prepare themselves to go home, but without your assistance this can become a never-ending cycle. As a result, we focuse on problem solving in parent sessions. I will answer your questions, discuss potential diagnoses and support you throughout this process.

Why I do not talk in front of your child

You may notice we do not discuss your child’s week in front of them. It is important to remember that I discourage talking in front of your children to assist in maintaining and improving self-esteem, confidence and problem solving skills. This is especially true for children who are frequently in trouble. Hearing their parent tell those issues to their ‘special play friend’ can dramatically affect their session, sometimes causing the play session to be minimally effective. In a sense, we then process what you said versus what they would have processed if you had not shared that information in front of them. Instead, please remember to utilize parent sessions and the weekly check in sheets to keep me updated.

Why I call myself a ‘special play friend’

I have found therapy can be quite intimidating for a child. It is important that your child’s counseling sessions are as calming as possible. For many children I am labeled a ‘special play friend’ or mom / dad’s friend. The goal of this is to label a therapist as a friend and thus someone your child can speak to. We teach her children stranger danger, so by identifying me as a friend, it can reduce some potential fears or anxieties. Being labeled a ‘special play friend’ is a common phrase for Registered Play Therapists. If you prefer another title, please let me know though I request whenever possible to be informally titled. Michelle is also fine!

How to explain play therapy sessions to your child

A frequent parent question is ‘how do I explain why they are coming here?’ My typical response is follow your instinct. Every child has different awareness of what counseling is though most find it a time to play. I typically recommend explaining that they are going to play, and in turn Michelle is going to teach the parents and them new skills. The children can become empowered as they realize that they are not in trouble and this can truly be a fun experience.

Why I ask you not to have your child say good bye

It is a common parent reaction to have your child say or wave good bye, but we have already done that! When we finish a play session we are automatically saying good bye. I have found that parents requiring a child to say good bye can be uncomfortable for the child. Typically, they are ready to go! Please know that they have already done a wonderful job saying good bye in their own way in session. The goal of play therapy is to keep it informal with the hopes that they will want to come again.

How do I know when we are ready to end play therapy sessions?

Frequently children do the guess work for us! I have found that some children naturally become resistant to attending sessions when it is time for us to reduce frequency. Please share any unusual reactions with me so that we can adjust accordingly. We will naturally reduce sessions throughout our time together however some parents benefit from continued sessions after play therapy has ended to maintain progress. Fortunately, children are always welcome to have a ‘refresher’ and may enjoy attending sessions at a later date.

Do you think play therapy might be right for your child? Or maybe you have a few more questions. Click below to schedule your first appointment or a free telephone consultation.