What is Child Centered Play Therapy?

Child Centered Play Therapy is a therapeutic 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 and to help children learn to solve problems and change their negative behaviours at their own level and at their own pace without feeling interrogated or threatened. Children are helped by a trained play therapist and mental health professional to understand their muddled feelings and upsetting events that they have not had a chance to sort out properly and be supported to find solutions to their struggles and healthy coping strategies.

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

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.

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 the capacities in the child that lead to improvement in behaviour and a decrease in symptoms such as acting out and aggression, somatic complaints, excessive 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 and extensive research supports the effectiveness of this therapeutic approach with children experiencing a range of emotional and behavioural problems.

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, feelings and beliefs
  • Learn how to express deep emotions while controlling their actions
  • Develop the capacity to make appropriate choices and decisions
  • Develop self control and self-responsibility
  • Choose new behaviours or ways of being
  • Feel in control of troubling situations
  • Develop coping strategies
  • 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, try new things, learn more about how the world works, learn about social rules and restrictions and work through their problems. 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 problems. The therapist allows the child to select the toys and the ways that they want to play with them. The therapist pays extremely 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 the therapist engages in imaginary play with the child and set limits if the child’s behaviour gets ‘out of line’. Limits are 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 work on their problems, explore different solutions and learn more effective coping methods that eventually transfer to their everyday environments and relationships.

Play Therapy provides the tools (toys) and the atmosphere to provide children an opportunity to open up more than usual and explore and express their feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviours

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?

Parents often worry when a child has a problem that causes them to be sad, disruptive, rebellious, unable to cope or inattentive.

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 and 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 young 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 Clinic is passionate about supporting young children to flourish, and reducing the number having mental health issues later in life. We are a team of qualified and expert mental health practitioners who specialise in child mental health, play based psychotherapy, 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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