Play Therapy

What Is Play Therapy?

A common question parents and caregivers ask is, “what exactly is play therapy?” The following is the official definition from the Association for Play Therapy (APT):

Play Therapy: Play therapy is 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 (APT, 2015).

One way I like to briefly describe play therapy for children is that play therapy is a treatment approach that allows children to engage in therapy through a communication process that is most natural for them. As Dr. Garry Landreth says, “toys are their words, and play is their language.” Just as adults, when children struggle to find words to express what is most troubling or traumatic for them, play therapy provides a way.

The Association for Play Therapy website has videos (in English and Espanol) that emphasize the importance of communicating with children in the way that is most natural for them:

Videos:  Play Therapy: Andrew’s Day                   Introduciendo Andres

What kinds of problems can Play Therapy address?

Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) have shown significant improvement for children experiencing symptoms of disruptive behavior, low self-concept, academic problems, internalizing problems, relationship problems, anxiety, trauma, and impairment. Source: Ray, D. C, & McCullough, R. (2015; revised 2016). Evidence-based practice statement: Play therapy (Research report). Retrieved from Association for Play Therapy    website: 

Sandtray Therapy



Where can I learn more about Play Therapy?

The Association for Play Therapy website at has a wealth of information about play therapy including a Parents Corner where parents can learn more about what play therapy looks like in practice.

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