top of page
Play room.jpg

Play Therapy for Children

Play Therapy is a form of Expressive Therapy that allows children and teens to explore their feelings, thoughts and behaviours in a safe and trusting play environment. It is through play that children express themselves and start their healing process.

At Kindred Counselling we combine EMDR therapy and Play Therapy to maximize therapeutic outcomes.

The Importance of Play Therapy

The child's play is a mirror of their life experiences and they often reveal a range of emotions and inner thoughts that are currently influencing their behaviour and affecting their development.

  • Play is a natural and important part of healthy child development

  • Through play, a child’s underlying thoughts and feelings are revealed

  • Play helps therapists assess children’s personality development, self-image, and how they view their problems, concerns, and relational circumstances

  • Play grants children the opportunity to solve problems, release tension, self-regulate, discover alternative adaptive behaviours, heal their emotional injuries, and increase their understanding of themselves.

  • Children achieve feelings of mastery, identity and control through play.

  • Children who suffer painful and traumatic experiences may use play to help integrate these stressful experiences and to compensate in fantasy for real losses and difficulties.  

(Adapted from Gil, E. (1991) The Healing Power of Play: Working with Abused Children. The Guilford Press; and Gil, E. (1994) Play in Family Therapy. The Guilford Press)

"Enter into children's play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts and souls meet." 
- Virginia Axline



How Do I Prepare My Child for the First Session? 

Before bringing your child for Play Therapy, it is important to tell them that they are going to see a counsellor who helps kids work through the tough times they are going through. You can name the current problems they are having. You can help normalize their experience by explain that many other children come here too. Be straight forward and clear about where they are going and why. Make sure they know at least a few days before so they can mentally prepare. If they feel tricked, they will not trust the process before therapy even starts.


Explain how we will be in a play room and do different activities. In the playroom they can draw, paint, play with toys, play games, use the sand tray and do a whole bunch of fun things. Children can do certain therapeutic activities to earn prizes as well. Although children may be hesitant to come to counselling, usually by the end of the first session they know mainly what to expect and will look forward to coming.


How Does Play Therapy Work?


(Information from Play Therapy International Website 2016) Play Therapy provides a safe and inviting environment for children and teens to express their feelings and find ways to create play that resembles the stressful experiences they are struggling with internally with an accepting and supportive adult therapist. Play Therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist is trained to reflect the child's inner world, model self-regulation and help children feel empowered so they can address and resolve their issues in an effective way.


Play allows children a safe psychological distance from their challenges and allows them to express their true thoughts, feelings about their experiences in ways that are best suited for their developmental level. Play may also be used to promote cognitive and emotional development providing insight about inner conflicts or problematic thinking for children.


During Play Therapy, a wide variety of toys and artistic materials are available to help the child feel comfortable to use play as a means for communication between the child and therapist. Children are given the opportunity to express themselves through art, sand play, dramatic play, storytelling, musical play, puppets and fantasy play. Children will choose toys and activities to represent their feelings, or repressed urges and recreate their inner struggles. Because Play Therapy is child-directed, children can create therapeutic play at their developmental level and choose an appropriate pace to explore their struggles.


Research shows that when children are struggling, having a strong and supportive significant relationship with a healthy adult can greatly improve a child's self-esteem and resiliency. While children are greatly impacted and affected by family, teachers and friends, a Play Therapist has an important role in a child's healing and provides an objective view separate from family members. The positive and respectful relationship that develops between therapist and child provides a restorative emotional experience and serves to release the natural healing resources that lie within the child. This safe and understanding relationship allows children a sense of security when they are recreating emotionally stressful experiences.


By confronting their problems in this protected environment, children learn healthy expression of their emotions and needs. Children's play then evolves to where they gain empowerment and comfort, and they can re-establish a sense of themselves and well-being. Play Therapy allows children to change the way they think about and feel towards their issues, as well as assisting them in finding new coping strategies and creative solutions that work. Lasting resolutions are discovered, rehearsed and adapted into the child's life.


EMDR & Play Therapy

EMDR is a trauma resolution therapy that can be seamlessly integrated into the play therapy process to enhance therapeutic results. 

What's the Difference Between Regular Play and Play Therapy?


The difference between regular child's play and Play Therapy is that the Play Therapy is purposefully used as a clinical intervention to bring them to non-clinical levels of functioning.

It is a therapeutic intervention that uses toys to represent the child's words and worlds and their play as the communication. It is a language that brings their inner thoughts and emotions from the inside to the outside. Much in the same way adults do talk therapy, the children are similarly "talking through play". The therapist's job is to provide a safe, accepting, non-judgmental place for the child to express themselves freely as the therapist observes and reflects to the child what they see so the child can gain insight and self-awareness so they can integrate new information. The therapist also will teach skills, self-regulation and intervene in troubling play in a play-based way that the child understands.


Who Practices Play Therapy?  


A Play Therapist is a trained mental health practitioner with at least a Master's Degree in psychology or counselling and has specialized training in Play Therapy and experience working with children and youth.



Sand Tray Therapy


Sand trays are a staple in Play Therapy. There are two trays in the Kindred Counselling play room, one wet and one dry. Through sand-play and the support of a therapist, the child will work through the current conflicts in their world and learn to re-pattern problematic thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

Children can also use the sand itself to self-regulate by grooming, funneling, raking, packing, digging, hiding objects, sifting, flattening-you get the idea. A lot of children find this relaxing and "satisfying".



Play Therapy Approach

The central Play Therapy approaches we use at Kindred Counselling is Synergetic Play Therapy and Child-centred Play Therapy


​Potential Benefits of Play Therapy & Sand Tray Therapy:

  • Increased ability to self-regulate: expanded window of tolerance

  • Learn a variety of ways of relating to others

  • Have a relieving sensory experience

  • Learn healthy ways to release pent up energy

  • Better manage distorted thinking: increased flexible thinking, ability to reframe negative thoughts, decrease negative self-talk and increased encouraging thoughts

  • Identify co-regulators (Eg: Knows who to go to for help)

  • Increase tolerance of unknown

  • Increase emotional, cognitive and physiological management and understanding

  • Increased mastery experiences and self-reliance

  • Increased emotional literacy and ability to authentically express emotions

  • Better communication skills (Eg: Express feelings, problem solving articulate personal needs)          

  • Self-care: Use personal resources to soothe self

  • Mindfulness: use of breath, grounding and self-awareness                                 

  • Increased mastery experiences

  • Decreased depression and anxiety and other clinical symptoms

  • Better sleep hygiene

  • Increased coping skills

  • Increased emotional intelligence

  • Increased self-esteem, self-confidence and self-reliance

  • Ability to resolve conflicts

  • Develop problem-solving skills

bottom of page