Guidelines to Play Therapy

May 03, 2021

Hi Everyone,

During my time with Ms. Glacel, the founder of Seven Corners Psychotherapy, I have been able to discover and analyze various types of Art Therapy. One of Ms. Glacel’s specialties is Play Therapy. Play Therapy is a branch of Art Therapy that can be used with all different age groups and is used to treat anxiety, depression, PTSD and ADHD in addition to many other behavioral problems. Play therapy works by allowing a patient to play with the toys available. Then the therapist analyzes the way and type of toys they client plays with in order to understand the problems a client is facing. Playing with toys in itself is also a beneficial part of therapy as playing in sandboxes or recreating scenes with toys is relaxing and allows the client to think through complex emotional problems. Play therapy also allows for the client to understand themselves better and provides them with better problem solving and social skills. 

Because many of the clients that Ms. Glacel sees are children, I helped her create a set of guidelines to give to parents before a play therapy session with their child. The list is below… 

Tips for parents

  • Parent sessions are an important part of the process.  Some play therapists incorporate time with parents at the beginning of each session.  Some schedule separate parent sessions in addition to a child’s session.
  • Confidentiality is very important to the process.  Therapists won’t share with parents what a child does or says in a session.  A child may talk about what they have said or done in a session.  However, please don’t ask a child any questions about their session.  If they want you to know, they will tell you.
  • Sometimes therapy sessions can bring up a lot of feelings for a child and so in the short term there may be an increase in the behaviors that led you to bring your child to therapy.  This is especially the case when the child’s behaviors were things like being alone more, being quieter than usual.  In the medium to long term, you will see a decrease in the intensity and frequency of the behaviors that led to therapy.
  • Often kids have to go to the bathroom in the middle of a session – even if they went right before.  This is ok.  If your child goes to the bathroom, please check on them if they take awhile and, if necessary, please check the bathroom after they’ve used it to make sure it’s in good shape.
  • Typically, parents do not come into the therapy room at the end of the session.  At times, a child will invite a parent in to show them something.  If they do, please do not ask questions or touch anything.  It’s appropriate to say “is there anything you want to share with me about what you’re showing me?”  If you have any further questions, please contact the therapist after the session.
  • At times children will create something that comes home with them.  Please do not comment on the item.  It is appropriate to ask if they want to share anything about it with you.  Often children will ask for praise, but it’s best to turn the question back to the child to ask them what they think.
  • Play therapy often looks like fun.  And often is fun.  However, it’s often not fun because big, overwhelming feelings are being worked on.  Try to refrain from saying “have fun” as your child enters the session.
  • Especially during the first few sessions it is important for parents to stay at the office while their child is in therapy.  Once the child is fully comfortable with the therapist, it is okay to run errands during the therapy appointment.  However, it is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT that you are back at least 5 minutes before the therapy session ends and that you are reachable by cell phone during the entire session.

These are some of the guidelines and basic tips for play therapy. 



Mental Health Professionals Applying the Therapeutic Power of Play , www.a4pt.org/page/PTMakesADifference.

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