What is Play Therapy

How can Play Therapy help my child? (Source: BAPT)

Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult.

Play Therapy helps children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.

Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, as adult therapy usually expects, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling interrogated or threatened.

The outcomes of Play Therapy may be general e.g. a reduction in anxiety and raised self-esteem, or more specific such as a change in behaviour and improved relations with family and friends.

What does a Play Therapist do? (Source: BAPT)

Play Therapists receive extensive training in subjects such as child development and attachment (the bonding process). They are also trained to use play, a child’s natural form of expression, as a means for understanding and communicating with children about feelings, thoughts and behaviour.

A Play Therapist will begin by carefully listening to your concerns about your child and family. They will review their history and find out about the stresses the family have been through so that they can help your child make sense of it. They may ask to seek information from school and other significant adults in their lives. An assessment is made of your child’s strengths as well as their difficulties.

Your child’s Play Therapist will talk with you about what to tell your child about their Play Therapy and how to anticipate and answer your child’s questions.

Laura Marie Hanks:

Laura is an independent play therapist and placement consultant. She is accredited with the BAPT and is on their register of play therapists. She has experience of working within social services, within a child therapy consultancy and independently.


Play therapy is a confidential process, in which the therapist will share information about the child if concerns about your child or a member of the public arise. The therapist will share information about themes and patterns in the play to provide an update on progress in play therapy rather than talking about specific play activity. All therapists are required to have regular meetings with a supervisor to discuss their practice; some information about your child’s history, behaviour and therapeutic needs will be discussed. It is also helpful to share information with other people providing support to your child, any information to be shared is discussed with parents first.

Review Meetings:

Review meetings are held at regular intervals (as appropriate) to share information about the play therapy process. It is helpful for the therapist to gain an update on your child’s progress outside of the session. These sessions may also be used to discuss helpful strategies which may help your child outside of the therapy session.


Some children have learned to manage their worries by changing their behaviour. It is often the case that whilst children are working on things that have been difficult in their lives, their behaviour changes. Children can become more sensitive and emotional, and need support at these times. Acknowledging the feeling behind the behaviour will help your child through the process.


The ending process is fundamental in play therapy. Because the child has built a relationship with the therapist that is supportive, some children experience a sense of loss if the ending is not adequate. The therapist will guide the child to contain any issues that the child is working on, and support the child to acknowledge the progress they have made in the therapy. The ending should be a celebration of this progress. Parents are able to end play therapy at any point in the process; however one final session to end the therapy may be required and is at the discretion of the therapist. Ending therapy without appropriate closure may not be in the child’s best interest.