What is Child Centered Play Therapy?

Child Centered Play Therapy is a therapeutic counselling method of ‘being with’ the child rather than a method of doing something for the child. It is child lead and involves the use of play to communicate with children. Children often have difficulty putting into words how they feel and how their experiences have affected them. For children, play is the natural form of communication used in everyday life and learning. Through play, children can explore and ‘act out’ events in their life such as having a new baby in the house or separation anxieties.

Play therapy is increasingly recognised as an effective psychological intervention for children under 12 years.

Play therapy helps children learn to solve problems and change their negative behaviours at their own level and at their own pace without feeling interrogated or threatened.

Benefits of Play Therapy

In play therapy, children create play that resembles the difficult or traumatic experiences they are grappling with internally. Since play therapy works on the inside out, we work to build capacities in the child that lead to improvement in behaviours. As a result of such improvement, we see a decrease in symptoms such as acting out and aggression, somatic complaints, fears and worries, withdrawal or regression .

Whether a child is struggling with impulsivity, friendship issues, anxiety, depression, loss, sensory overwhelm, sibling rivalry or fears, Play Therapy can help. Research supports the effectiveness of this therapeutic approach with children experiencing a range of emotional, developmental and behavioural concerns.

Play Therapy helps children with emotional, social, developmental and behavioural difficulties.

Play therapy can promote resilience and coping skills, that are appropriate to the child’s age and developmental stage. These skills will help them:

  • Develop insight and the ability to express thoughts and feelings
  • Learn how to express a range of emotions while controlling their actions
  • Develop the capacity to make appropriate choices and decisions
  • Become more responsible for behaviours
  • Feel in control of troubling situations
  • Reduce anxieties
  • Change unhelpful self talk
  • Have a positive sense of self and of others
  • Develop confidence and self reliance
  • Increase their empathy and connection with others
All the sources of information used to research this section of our website can be viewed on Section one of our References page.  Additional evidence-based research is available on the Australian Play Therapists Association (APTA) website.

What happens during a Play Therapy session?

Play Therapy creates a safe atmosphere based on acceptance, empathy and understanding so that children can express themselves safely. They can also try new things, learn about themselves, and develop empathy for themselves and others. Play Therapists are specifically trained to use a set of specialist skills in a consistent and predictable manner so a trusting and positive relationship can develop between the therapist and child.

The Play Therapist will take children into a playroom that has a wide range of carefully selected toys. The toys are chosen because they help children express a variety of feelings and work on things they are struggling with. The therapist allows the child to select the toys and the ways that they want to play with them. The therapist pays close attention to the child’s actions and feelings and uses the skill of empathic listening to convey that the therapist is attuned to and interested in the child’s play and understands how he or she is feeling. Sometimes therapeutic limits are set when needed. However, this is always communicated in an empathic and respectful way that helps the child make choices and develop self responsibility. With Child Centered Play Therapy, the child’s problems or issues usually come out naturally in their play and at their own pace.

Over a number of sessions, children are supported to explore different solutions and learn more effective coping methods that eventually transfer to their everyday environments and relationships.

Play Therapy is a place for a child to work through anxieties in an environment that makes this ‘working through’ possible.

Learn more about Session Details and Fees

All the sources of information used to research this section of our website can be viewed on Section two of our References page

Can Play Therapy help my child?

When children are having difficulties it often shows up in their behaviour. You may be concerned about your child’s development, eating or sleeping patterns and how they are getting along with family, friends or at school. When things are hard, some children may react by becoming very anxious, sad and may withdraw into themselves. Other children may externalise their behaviour and have outbursts of anger and aggression.

Play therapy is a very effective therapy for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Children can be referred to a trained and experienced play therapist as a result of the following issues (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Trauma
  • Divorce and family breakdown
  • Social difficulties
  • Separation anxiety
  • Anger, oppositional and acting out behaviours
  • Bullying
  • Physical and sexual abuse
  • ADHD / ADD
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Parent and child relationship challenges
  • Sleeping and eating difficulties
  • Low self esteem and self confidence
  • Grief and loss
  • Depression
  • Chronic illness/hospitalisation/surgery
  • Physical symptoms without any medical cause
  • Bonding and attachment
  • Selective mutism
  • Near death experiences

Our Approach

Helen Barrett Children’s Counselling and Play Therapy is passionate about supporting young children to flourish, and reducing the number having mental health issues later in life. Helen is part of the Play Therapy Hub team of qualified and expert mental health clinicians who specialise in child development, childhood mental health, play therapy, family therapy, and parenting support. Play as therapy for children, is a very natural approach which helps them to work through challenges they face, without needing the words to describe their emotions.

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