Enter into children's play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts, and souls meet.

Virginia Axline, Play Therapy Pioneer (1911-1988)

Play Therapy

Children express their thoughts and feelings naturally through play.  You might think of toys as their words and the ways that they play with those toys as their language.  For this reason, the toys in the play therapy room are specially chosen to provide children with “words” to express a wide variety of feelings, including those like anger, frustration, and sadness that might typically be discouraged in everyday play.  I have also selected toys that appeal to a variety of senses, which helps a child build a stronger connection within themselves and with their environment.  As a trained play therapist, I am also a vital part of the play therapy process and remain active in the child’s play so that each child is able to make their expressions within a supportive therapeutic relationship.

Can play therapy fix my child?

In play therapy, I do not see children as “broken.”  Rather, I understand that children behave or act in undesirable ways in an effort to get real needs met.  What I can do through play therapy is to help children feel better about themselves; help them feel happier, healthier, and more peaceful, improve their contact with their environment; help them express deep feelings (particularly anger) in appropriate ways; help them experience blocked emotions; and work with parents to learn new methods of setting clear limits with their children.  In addressing these root causes, problematic behaviors often disappear or become less prominent without being specifically addressed.

How to I explain play therapy to my child?

You may tell your child that he/she will be coming to be with Ms. Kim in a special playroom where there are lots of toys.  If your child wants to know why he/she is going to the playroom, you may say something like “When things are hard for you at home (or at school), sometimes it helps to have a special place to play.”

What should my child wear?

I suggest you let your child wear play clothes you won’t mind getting messy or stained.  Play therapy can get messy.  Although most of the art materials used are labeled “washable,” stains sometimes remain.  When we are outside, children may choose to play with the sand/water table or to pour water from the watering can so it is possible for clothes or shoes to become muddy.

What do I do if my child doesn't want to go to the playroom?

Sometimes children can feel very anxious about leaving their caregiver in the waiting room and going back to the playroom.  It is important to the therapeutic process for each child to freely enter, without well-meaning encouragement from parents such as pointing out fun toys in the room or offering rewards for attending.  Holding space together in the waiting room, practicing calmness and maintaining limits can be highly therapeutic interventions for a child!

My child wants to bring a toy from home, is that allowed?

While I don’t encourage children to bring toys from home, personal toys may sometimes be helpful for a child.  All toys are treated with the same limit-setting as playroom toys.  Still, toys in the playroom sometimes get messy from sand, paint, or mud and I cannot guarantee personal toys will stay clean or unbroken.  The playroom is a screen-free play area.

What do I say when our play session is over?

Avoid asking questions about what your child did, what happened, or was it fun.  Listen carefully and allow your child to lead the conversation.  Sometimes a child may take a painting or other artwork home.  Simply describe what you see, such as “You used lots of colors!”  or “You’re really proud of that” instead of praising the art or asking what it is.

How else can I support my child?

You are an important part of your child's play therapy experience.  By arriving on time for scheduled appointments and rescheduling when needed, you demonstrate the importance of these sessions to your child.  Parents and caregivers are asked to schedule a separate parent consultation with me every 4-6 weeks so that we can freely talk about your child's progress at home, school, and in sessions.  Additionally, you might consider attending Child-Parent Relationship Training, which is held in a group format periodically throughout the year.  In this six-week "crash course" training, you will learn basic play therapy skills and hold at-home special playtimes with your child.  Research indicates that holding such playtimes can decrease time needed to stay in play therapy and increase play therapy effectiveness.