Melody Cline, MA, LMFT, CCTP

Why Your Child’s Therapist Needs To Be A Play Therapist

May 23, 2016 By

Why Your Child’s Therapist Needs To Be A Play Therapist

When I needed to find a therapist for my six year old son, it was much more difficult than I could have imagined. I struggled to figure out who would really know how to help him. Some therapists who said they worked with children had websites and online listings that only mentioned adult and teen problems and therapies. Some I called didn’t seem to know what to do with a younger child. Most also expected my active little boy to sit on a couch and talk. They offered play as a bribe to coerce him into talking with them. Eventually I learned about Play Therapy and why therapists trained in using Play Therapy are some of the best experts in the field at working with children 10 and under. Here are five reasons why your child’s therapist needs to be a Play Therapist:

1. Play is a child’s first language.

Before their mouths and brains can produce words, our children begin interacting with us through their play. Therapists who work with children must be trained to speak this language and be able to translate it for others who may have forgotten how to speak it. Play Therapists enjoy helping parents make sense of what their children are trying to tell them.

2. Play is how children naturally learn.

Play is what children do instinctively with whatever they encounter. Even a cardboard box or a kitchen gadget becomes something new in the hands of a child. Teachers click and parents often use this childhood capacity of play to teach school skills and social skills. We play peekaboo and a child learns that even when we can’t see each other, my mom or dad will still be there. Play is the way children try out new skills and master what challenges them.

3. Play therapy is age-appropriate therapy.

Play Therapy uses this special childhood ability of learning through play to do the therapeutic work needed. In a Play Therapist’s office, a child is not required to behave in a certain way or learn new rules. The child comes as he or she is, and the Play Therapist knows how to interact with the child to create a safe, child-friendly environment. In the safety of the therapy room, children can express all of their emotions and design real solutions to resolve the problems they face by using what they know best—play. All children are welcome in a Play Therapy office, including those with developmental and intellectual challenges.

4. Children act out their problems in play rather than talk through them.

Play is about doing and showing rather than saying. A child lacks the developmental ability to sit on a couch and talk about problems like adults do in therapy. They lack the vocabulary and the capacity to describe situations, make comparisons, and think abstractly. Instead, children act out their problems and their ideas. Emotions are acted out and themes of current struggles emerge in Play Therapy.

5. Play therapy is effective.

Clinical research tells us that children participate more in therapy that includes play. It engages more of their brains. Utilizing play allows even toddlers and preschoolers to participate in therapy when needed. Research consistently affirms that Play Therapy is powerful and it works. Parents are often amazed at what their children share in play and the changes the therapy produces. In play, children are competent and powerful. Play Therapy is the miniature world where children have the courage to conquer the real life monsters.


Read other posts by Melody Cline, MA, LMFT, CCTP, here.

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Melody Cline, MA, LMFT, CCTP

Melody Cline, MA, LMFT, CCTP

After working with children, teens, and parents for over 20 years, Melody completed her M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy at Wheaton College. She actively enjoys volunteer leadership, speaking in the community, and providing innovative strengths-focused therapy for children and families at Upswing Counseling in Wheaton, IL.

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