|Rebecca Lueck, LCSW
2607 Alcatraz Ave. Suite 2
Berkeley, CA 94705
|What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy provides a therapeutic counseling setting where spontaneous, experiential, creative
activity provides a forum during sessions to promote self expression, change and healing. The
clients are usually children; however, adolescents and adults can, and do, benefit from play
therapy as well. People of all ages express themselves both verbally and non-verbally. In play
therapy, the client selects toys for self reflections and exploration of personal growth issues.
Through play, the client represents and processes their own unique inner world and the
dissonance with the larger world. Therapeutic play includes, but is not limited to, activities such
as drawing, using puppets, and dramatic or fantasy activities. The play therapist facilitates this
experience by creating a safe and accepting environment for the client.
Play therapists believe that this method allows the child to manipulate the world on a smaller
scale, something that cannot be done in the child's everyday environment. By playing with
specially selected materials, and with the guidance of a person who reacts in a positive and
non-judgmental manner, the child plays out his/her feelings, bringing these hidden emotions to
the surface where s/he can face them and cope with them. In it's most psychotherapeutic form,
the therapist is unconditionally accepting of anything the child might say or do. The therapist
never expresses shock, argues, teases, moralizes, or tells the child that his/her perceptions are
incorrect. Yet, even though the atmosphere is permissive, certain limits may have to be imposed
such as restrictions on destroying materials, attacking the therapist, or going beyond a set time
Who Benefits from Play Therapy?
Play therapy is helpful for children in a wide range of situations. For example, children and
adolescents who are coping with parental conflict, divorce, or who have witnessed domestic
violence, can benefit from play therapy. Also, children who have experienced loss, such as illness
or death of a loved one, or who have been traumatized by abuse, disasters or serious accidents
may also find play therapy helpful. In play therapy, a child's anxiety about a traumatic event can
be reduced, feelings are expressed, trust in self and others increases, and a sense of
competence is enhanced. People of all ages can benefit from using a non-verbal form of
expression, adding fun and spontaneity and previous stages of development to their sessions.