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Play Therapy Techniques and Why They Are Helpful

If you are interested in Play Therapy and want to know about the general Play Therapy Techniques that therapists normally use, then check out our mini-guide about them and see which one best suits your approach!

By Chloe Smith on Jul 09, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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Play Therapy Techniques

Hello, there! If you are here, that means that you are either curious about Play Therapy in general, or you have already gone through special training and got certified to include Play Therapy in your line of therapeutic work!

This guide is all about Play Therapy Techniques, which are the general activities normally employed by professionals to conduct their sessions with the kids they are caring for. If you are looking for more specific activities, please read our Play Therapy Activities mini-guide. But if you would rather just look at a more general list so that you can exercise your creativity later on by creating your own materials or combining things, then keep reading this guide!

Also, just for your information, do note that practicing Play Therapy requires that you undergo special training and certification. If you are interested in using Play Therapy for your work, please get the appropriate training and certification from the nearest organization that teaches Play Therapy.

What are Play Therapy Techniques?

Now, before we discuss what Play Therapy Techniques are, let’s have a quick refresher on what Play Therapy is, especially for the benefit of those who stumbled upon this mini-guide!

Play Therapy is a type of therapy where the practitioner provides an interactive kind of care to the children and adolescents they are handling through play! What constitutes “play” in the context of Play Therapy are exciting activities that have little tykes express themselves freely through activities that they can do alone and in groups, as well as through the use of toys!

It’s also a wonderful way for practitioners to help children work through the trials and tribulations they face and teach them the necessary skills like communication and problem-solving to help them take on and overcome whatever challenges they face and will face in the future. This kind of therapy also aims to help children process their emotions in healthy ways by having them find an outlet, like making art and storytelling.

How do practitioners help children through Play Therapy? They do so by employing a wide variety of techniques. These techniques are actually activities, such as drawing, painting, writing, reading, storytelling, building, sculpting, playing with toys, and a whole lot more.

Play Therapists employ these techniques in two ways:

  1. Non-directive Play Therapy
  • For this type of Play Therapy, healthcare practitioners will let kids just enjoy whatever activities and materials that were prepared without being directed by the practitioners. But even if the kids will be left to their own devices, the practitioner must first ensure that the kids are in a safe and supportive environment where they can express themselves and explore their emotions in healthy ways without fear of judgment.
  • This is a good opportunity for healthcare practitioners to simply observe kids having fun and note down how the kids play, how they behave when alone or with others, how they process their emotions, etc.
  1. Directive Play Therapy
  • This is the opposite of the former. For this type of Play Therapy, the practitioner is more involved. They will be providing and conducting activities with the goal of helping kids develop communication and problem-solving skills. Throughout Directive Play Therapy sessions, the practitioner will be there to provide instructions, support, and directions to all the kids, especially when it comes to helping them express how they feel.
  • Even though practitioners are more involved in this kind of Play Therapy, that doesn’t mean they won’t be doing any observing. Observing is quite important in Play Therapy because observations can help shape future sessions, whether it’s for the kid alone, an entire group of kids, or for the kids and their parents/guardians.

Why are Play Therapy Techniques helpful?

There are a number of reasons why Play Therapy Techniques are helpful, to both practitioners and the kids enrolled in a Play Therapy program.

On the part of the practitioner, Play Therapy Techniques allow them to create safe, non-judgmental, and supportive environments for kids, which are normally hard to foster in talk-based therapy. Since kids generally love playing, being able to play, for them, means that they are simply allowed to enjoy what’s available to them. If they are able to play and smile, then they feel safe.

On the part of the kids, Play Therapy Techniques allow them to express themselves and process their emotions, showcase their imagination, and learn a wide variety of skills that will be beneficial for them in the long run.

As an extension to being able to express themselves, Play Therapy can help them develop self-esteem and confidence, learn how to establish rapport and trust with others, think critically and make informed choices, solve problems by themselves or alongside others, take risks, and process their emotions in non-self-destructive manners.

It’s also helpful to the family or guardians of the kids. From time to time, they will be included in these programs so they can gain a better understanding of their child and learn what they need to do to provide the environment and support that their child needs.

When are Play Therapy Techniques often used?

Play Therapy Techniques are often used whenever play therapists need to establish rapport with the kids. Kids enrolled in a Play Therapy program might feel scared or shy at first because they are going to be under the care of someone who is essentially a stranger in the beginning. One can’t really provide play therapy if they can’t get the kids to play, so employing the use of Play Therapy Techniques as early as the first session is recommended.

These techniques should help practitioners foster an environment in which children can feel safe. By giving the kids fun things to do, they should slowly warm up to being in your clinic or therapy space. You should use techniques so they feel safe around you and trust you, then eventually you will have to use these techniques to help them feel safe around other kids and trust them as well.

The use of Play Therapy Techniques doesn’t stop there. You will essentially be using these throughout all your sessions. Once rapport and trust have been established between you and the kids, Play Therapy Techniques will be for observing what the kids are like and nudging them to learn essential skills that will help them overcome the challenges they face and work through whatever trauma or emotional turmoil they are dealing with.

10 Types of General Play Therapy Techniques

  1. Art Therapy - A type of Play Therapy Technique where art materials are given to kids to help encourage them to express their emotions and experiences in imaginative ways.
  1. Music Therapy - This uses music to help them explore, express, and control their emotions. If you want to make music a big part of your Play Therapy program, you can teach the kids under your care how to play music and perform them. Doing so will help them learn how to deal with crowds, whether in a classroom setting or some setting with a lot of people.
  1. Movement Therapy - This is similar to music in the sense that children can learn how to be more self-aware, capable of self-regulation, and resilient when taking on physically taxing activities that may otherwise leave them feeling beaten and tired. It’s also a good way to build confidence, especially if dance is the type of Movement Therapy being used.
  1. Bibliotherapy - If you have a knack for literature and storytelling, this might be something you’d like to do. Bibliotherapy involves the use of books and storytelling to help children identify with something, whether it be a character, a plot, or a theme. If you read them short stories with characters they can relate to, they can learn how to properly cope with their emotions and experiences, so make sure to include age-appropriate stories. A Game of Thrones surely won’t help.
  1. Drama/Theater Therapy - If you fancy yourself a thespian and feel like expressing yourself through acting will benefit the kids, then you might want to include Drama/Theater Therapy in your Play Therapy program. Teaching them how to act will make them more comfortable expressing their emotions in positive ways and even build self-confidence
  1. Puppet and Doll Play Therapy - This is similar to Drama/Theater Therapy. For this one, you provide the kids with puppets or dolls and have them act out scenes. This is another way for them to express themselves and even process their emotions and experiences. They can act out their experiences or even just an actual skit from a show. It’s up to you.
  1. Nature Therapy - This is a kind of Play Therapy where you take your kids on a short trip to see nature where they can run around and enjoy the natural world. It’s a good way for them to learn that spending time in nature has a calming effect. This should teach them how to find some peace in one of the simplest ways possible: going out and touching grass (or animals). Do make sure to keep an eye on them and keep them safe. Don’t take them to beautiful places that are potentially dangerous.
  1. Animal-assisted Therapy - Animals such as cats and dogs can help with therapy. By having therapy animals with you, you can have your kids interact and play with them. Having them interact with animals can help teach them how to trust and have empathy for others (especially animals).
  1. Building Therapy - This type of therapy has kids playing with the likes of playdough, LEGO, and other toys to help them develop motor skills, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills, especially if you task them to make something specific using the materials. You’ll also be able to observe how they showcase their imagination using whatever is given to them.
  1. Play-based Group Therapy - This type of Play Therapy will have kids interact with other kids in order to help them learn how to communicate as well as develop trust and rapport. This isn’t limited to kids, though. This can involve the parents or guardians so they learn about what kind of support their child needs.

This is just a general list of techniques. For specific activities, please check our Play Therapy Activities mini-guide!

How are Play Therapy Techniques beneficial?

  1. Play Therapy Techniques can help strengthen the bonds between children and parents/guardians.
  • Play Therapy Techniques will help them know what kind of support their child needs based on what the play therapist has observed in past sessions as well as what the parents or guardians observe when they are included in these group sessions. By knowing what the child needs and learning what to do at home to continue the progress outside the clinic, they can strengthen their relationships with one another, improve communication, and even help decrease conflict (or help them work through them healthily, if conflict is inevitable from time to time).
  1. These techniques can help play therapists earn the trust of the kids they are caring for.
  • Just to reiterate, kids may not exactly be comfortable taking Play Therapy at first. They are interacting with a person who is a stranger, after all. By using Play Therapy Techniques, therapists can create the atmosphere needed for them to establish rapport and trust with a kid. These techniques should help ease the child into the Play Therapy program, and once they are looking forward to Play Therapy, the techniques can be used to help them develop skills.
  1. Kids will be able to learn how to properly express their emotions and experiences in a healthy manner.
  • Through techniques like storytelling, acting, and more, kids will be able to develop emotional resilience. Through cathartic activities, they will be able to explore their emotions in non-destructive ways, as well as build confidence and self-esteem.
  1. These techniques also teach them problem-solving skills and learn to trust others.
  • Through group activities, children will learn how to communicate with others. Learning how to communicate better will lead them to discover what’s best to do in order to establish rapport, trust, and friendship with others. They will also learn how to make decisions while considering other people’s opinions, take risks, and solve problems.

How can Carepatron help with Play Therapy work?

Now that you have learned about Play Therapy Techniques and what general techniques are employed by most play therapists, you might want to check out our Play Therapy Activities for specific activities that you can include in your Play Therapy program.

This is what Carepatron is all about – being a good platform to learn about different kinds of healthcare practices and topics. We have numerous articles covering various topics, so if you need to learn about something, you’re going to get a comprehensive look at a particular topic.

Carepatron is also a repository of awesome tools like worksheets and assessments to help you streamline your work, improve it, and assist you with covering as much ground as you can for each of your patients or clients. If you are a play therapist and you’re looking for more tools to add to your Play Therapy program, feel free to download our resources! Get as much as you want!

Now, let’s say you have downloaded the tools that you need from us and you’re looking for a way to create backups of your files. You’ll be glad to know that Carepatron also has a storage system you can access!

Our storage system is entirely secure and you can dictate who gets to access your files! It will allow you to store your files in a HIPAA-compliant manner, too. If you made a record of your observations for every kid enrolled in your Play Therapy program, you can preserve them via our storage system. If you issued any worksheets or used any assessments during the course of your program, you can also store them with us!

With Carepatron, you’ll have a much easier time with your work!

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Commonly asked questions

What kinds of problems can Play Therapy Techniques help with?

The end goal of Play Therapy and Play Therapy Techniques is to help the child develop the necessary skills that will improve their mental and emotional fortitude as well as how to process their emotions helpfully, how to solve problems more efficiently, etc. These will help them combat or work through problems like anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, and a whole lot more.

Are all Play Therapy Techniques suitable for all children/adolescents?

Some techniques are best for older children while some are best for younger ones, but the answer isn’t always clear-cut given that every child is different from others. This is why it’s always best to observe the children in your program. You should pick the necessary Play Therapy Techniques depending on your observations for each child.

How come parents/guardians will be involved from time to time?

The reason for this is that the child lives with them. They spend more time with their parents and their guardians, not their play therapists (although, there might be special cases), so it’s best for them to be involved in the Play Therapy programs so they know how they can continue the efforts of the program at home.

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