What is Play Therapy?

Play Therapy normally takes place once weekly, and is offered as a 40 minute session on the same day and at the same time every week.

Children may be referred by teachers, social workers or come because their parents know they need a little extra help with communicating. During this time, children are supported to play freely with sand, art, clay, puppets, music, in a non-directive way, so they can communicate their inner world through metaphor, stories, and play.

The therapy is non-judgmental and accepting of the child and of what is brought to the session, allowing the child to safely explore traumas or emotions that they may otherwise not be able to be put into words. Children are allowed to explore many parts of themselves through the creative arts as a medium of expression. Older children can also express in the same way, but may feel the drawing and sand trays are more suitable than actual play. Older children are often able to verbalize thoughts and feelings and therefore sessions are adapted to suit each child's developmental stage.

When to refer a child for Play Therapy?

Do you know a child who:

  • Is not realising their full potential - academically or socially ?

  • Has nightmares or has disturbed sleep?

  • Is at risk of being/is excluded from school?

  • Has suffered trauma?

  • Has suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse?

  • Is or has been, or in the process of being, adopted or fostered?

  • Suffers because of separated/divorced parents?

  • Suffers from anxiety, stress or phobias?

  • Has suffered a loss or bereavement of any kind?

  • Is withdrawn or frequently unhappy?

  • Has an illness, a disability, or has autism?

  • Finds it difficult to make friends?

  • Quarrels frequently with peers or siblings?

  • Bullies others or is bullied themselves?

  • Displays inappropriate behaviour?

  • Doesn’t play?

  • Or has had any kind of trauma in their lives? 

Then this child may benefit from Play Therapy. Please contact for a free confidential consultation 

How can Play Therapy help my child?

Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult.

Play Therapy helps children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.

The outcomes of Play Therapy may be general e.g. a reduction in anxiety and raised self-esteem, or more specific such as a change in behaviour and improved relations with family and friends.

What does a Play Therapist do?

Play Therapists receive extensive training in subjects such as child development and attachment (the bonding process). They are also trained to use play, a child’s natural form of expression, as a means for understanding and communicating with children about feelings, thoughts and behaviour.

A Play Therapist will begin by carefully listening to your concerns about your child and family. They will review their history and find out about the stresses the family have been through so that they can help your child make sense of it. They may ask to seek information from school and other significant adults in their lives. An assessment is made strengths as well as their difficulties.

Why is the therapeutic relationship so important?

The therapeutic relationship that develops between your child and their Play Therapist is very important. Your child must feel comfortable, safe and understood. This type of trusting environment makes it easier for the child to express their thoughts and feelings and to use the therapy in a useful way. It is also crucial that your child knows that you are supporting the process.

Will it be confidential?

Information that you share about your child and family will usually be kept confidential. A Play Therapist may share information with other colleagues and professionals for the benefit of your child with your permission. A Play Therapist must share information with other professionals if they are concerned that a child is being harmed, hurting others or themselves and follow West Sussex child protection framework. They will usually talk to you about this first.

Your child’s Play Therapist will meet with you at regular intervals to discuss progress in therapy sessions and any changes and developments you have witnessed or experienced at home. However, the Play Therapist will not disclose specific details of what your child has played. This is important in order to maintain your child’s trust and feelings of safety with the therapist.

What can I do to help?

You are very important in supporting your child through the process.

  • Be consistent and encouraging to your child about attending sessions regularly.

  • Resist the urge to ask your child what they did, as this will put pressure on them to comment on something they may have difficulty understanding themselves.

  • Please don’t ask your child to ‘be good’ or check they have been. Therapy is not about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and your child must feel free to express ‘bad’ feelings in an uncensored way.

  • Don’t insist that your child tell certain things: it is their time and they must feel free to express themselves at their own pace. Instead tell your concerns to the Play Therapist on a separate occasion.

Play can be messy and it is helpful if your child can wear old clothes to minimise their anxiety about this.

During any therapeutic intervention behaviour may appear to get worse before it gets better – please tell your child’s Play Therapist if you have any concerns. Please also feel free to ask your child’s Play Therapist any questions throughout the process.

How many sessions?

Play therapy takes place over time. After an initial consultation with the parent, the child will normally have an initial 6 sessions followed by a review with the parent. Further sessions will be conducted as thought necessary, with regular reviews. Some children are able to find help within a relatively short period of time such as 12 sessions, others will need considerably longer.

What support is available for me as a parent?

If parents feel supported and helped themselves, they then have an invaluable asset to offer their child: their relationship with them. A secure relationship between parent and child is the best resource available to children to help them through their difficulties. I offer Parent-Child Attachment Play which offers ways to strengthen and support this very important relationship.

Where does the play therapy take place?

I have a playroom in West Sussex where I offer play therapy sessions as well as other venues such as schools and Child and Family Centres.


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