The Association for Play Therapy(APT) defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
More simply put, play therapy is a way of being with the child that honors their unique developmental level and looks for ways of helping in the “language” of play. Licensed mental health professionals therapeutically use play to help their clients, to better express themselves and resolve their problems.
Play Therapy works best when a safe relationship is created between the therapist and client, one in which the latter may freely and naturally express both what pleases and bothers them.
Play Therapy is used as a primary intervention or as supportive therapy for:
- Behavioral problems, such as anger management,grief and loss, divorce and abandonment, and crisis and trauma.
- Behavioral disorders, such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), autism or pervasive developmental, academic and social developmental, physical and learning disabilities, and conduct disorders.
Research suggests Play Therapy is an effective mental health approach, regardless of age, gender, or the nature of the problem, and works best when a parent, family member, or caretaker is actively involved in the treatment process.
How Long Does Play Therapy Take?
Each play therapy session varies in length but usually last about 30 to 50 minutes. Sessions are usually held weekly. Research suggests that it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions to resolve the problems of the typical child referred for treatment. Of course, some children may improve much faster while more serious or ongoing problems may take longer to resolve (Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002).
Who Practices Play Therapy?
The practice of play therapy requires extensive specialized education, training, and experience. A play therapist is a licensed mental health professional who has earned a Master's or Doctorate degree in a mental health field with considerable general clinical experience and supervision. With advanced, specialized training, experience, and supervision, mental health professionals may also earn the Registered Play Therapist (RPT), Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S) or School Based-Registered Play Therapist (SB-RPT) credentials¹ conferred by the Association for Play Therapy (APT).