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Counseling Children

Play Therapy
Play Therapy General
A form of action therapy that
uses sand play, fairy tales, art,
and puppetry to encourage
communication in children who
have inadequate or immature
verbalization skills or who
verbalize excessively due to
The Purpose of Play
 to enable children to indirectly express inner
thoughts, fears, anxieties, and feelings of rage
and guilt
 to help children accomplish developmental tasks
through a protected modality in which they can
learn to deal with difficulties in the here and now
(playroom as sanctuary)
 to help children reduce anxiety and resolve
The Process of Play Therapy

Metaphorical expression of
distressing events allows
children to externalize and
fantasize their pain so that
they can more effectively
control it and learn adaptive
ways to cope with it.
Play Therapy
Play is a primary method for working
with children ages 2 -12 because of
limited cognitive development and
limited ability to verbalize thoughts
and feelings, and because it is an
integral part of children’s lives as well
as a natural mode of learning and
Adlerian Play
 Uses techniques to provide
 Encouragement

 reveal family constellation

 encourage early recollections

 reveal goals of child’s behavior

 form tentative hypotheses about the child’s

 re-educate the child.
Gestalt Play
(Oaklander) uses play techniques
that focus on:
establishing the relationship
strengthening the child’s sense of
self and self-support
encouraging emotional expression
teaching the child to nurture self.
Cognitive-Behavioral Play
(Knell) focuses on:
child’sthoughts, feelings,
fantasies, and environment
teach more adaptive behaviors
through modeling, role-playing,
and behavioral contingencies
Family Play
 (Busby and Lufkin) discovers
information about family relationships
and identifies common themes.
 Goals (Anderson) include:
 understanding the family’s emotional
 role expectations
 self-images
 structure.
Child-Centered Play
(Landreth) focuses on:
the relationship and convey
unconditional caring and
acceptance, respect, and patience
allowing children to lead the
relationship and solve their own
The Role of Play
“Play is the currency of
Play is:


The Role of Play
 Play has no goal, purpose, or task
 Play is a natural way for children to:
 Communicate
 Actout sensitive material
 Gain security (imaginary friend)
 Develop self-confidence (mastery)

 Playallows children to experiment with

new ways of thinking & behaving
Criteria for Play
 Not literal
 Pleasure
 Intrinsic
 Flexibility
Stages of Play
 Functional
(Sensorimotor): Repetition
and exploration
 [0 - 2]
 Constructive/Productive (Creative)
 [2-4]

 Dramatic/Reproductive (Realistic)
 [4-7]

 Games with Rules

 [7-12]
Types of Materials
 Real-lifetoys: doll house, telephone, etc.
 Acting Out/Aggressive Release Toys:
handcuffs, toy guns and knives, drums,
 Creative Expression/Emotional Release
Toys: chalk, magic markers, scissors,
paper, blocks, hand puppets, Play-Doh,
Characteristics of Play
 Healthy Play  Disturbed Play
 Relate freely  Uncomfortable
 Conversational  wants to be told what to
 Spontaneous do
 Direct & open  Questions or demands
 Play alone or with you  Aggressive
 Play alone or under
your control
Characteristics of Play
 Healthy  Disturbed
 Play as exploration  Play is intense
 feelings  Themes
 temporary tensions  are diffuse
 temporary conflicts

 Themes
 are direct
 able to express

negative feelings,
but also positive
feelings about same
Stages of the Therapeutic
 Open and permissive atmosphere for
relationship building, focusing on the feelings
that play behavior evokes, open-ended
questions, developing hypotheses
 More directive play, testing hypotheses,
exploration of feelings and behavior - active
 Engagement of the child in more systematically
structured play sequences related to the conflict;
use of systematic desensitization
Play Techniques
 Play Interview
 Counselor interviews child during play
 Balloon Bursting in Structured Play
 helpsinhibited children become more
 Playhouses
 shows home relationships
 gives insight into child’s view of ideal home
Play Techniques
 Puppets
 may be used to talk about difficult issues
 a variety of 15-20 puppets recommended

 counselor interviews the child after the story is

told through the puppets
 Telephone
 childrenmay imitate parents on the phone or
talk to an imaginary or lost friend or loved one
Play Techniques
 Sandplay
 allows counselor access to child’s world while promoting
understanding & self-discovery
 Waterplay
 can be an outlet for releasing aggression or for
 Food
 counselor explores with child various reactions to food
Play Techniques
 Finger Painting
 can help child express feelings, overcome
inhibitions, reveal fantasies
 child tells the story of the painting and the
teacher asks for clarification and feelings
 color chosen and how the picture is drawn may
be of importance
Play Techniques
 Squiggle Technique
 Counselor draws a squiggle (straight, curved, or
zigzag line) and asks child to complete a
 child tells a story about the squiggle with the
Counselor asking for clarification
 process is then reversed; the Counselor’s story
may be interpretative or make suggestions
Play Techniques
 Art and Music Therapy
 familydrawings are often helpful in
understanding family dynamics
 music can often reduce tension, stress, or
 The Emotional Barometer
 childis asked to give an indication of how he or
she feels and how things are going
Play Techniques
 Role Playing
 used to act out situations or rehearse new
 may help Counselor understand how child
perceives the world and relates to others
 Family Word Association Game
 childdraws a picture of family, friends, or
school and selects a card with an adjective
word on it to describe the person(s)
Play Techniques
 Magic
 may be used to track relationship skills or
promote awareness
 involve the child in the magic, choosing the
tricks carefully to achieve a specific goal
 Ventriloquism
 figuresmay help in gathering information from
resistant children, to teach social skills, or to
explore ways for solving problems
Play Techniques
Board Games
promote emotional growth
enhance communication
help children with anxiety
promote socialization
Play Techniques
 Competitive Play
 may be therapeutic and help with socialization
skills, but negative effects on esteem and
attitude should be considered
 Group Play Therapy
 children
with similar problems and/or similar
backgrounds may benefit from group play by
sharing experiences and benefiting from the
role modeling of others