In short, child-centred play therapy is for all children. There are so many ways in which a child can benefit from therapy, and even more reasons for exploring this option.

More importantly, of all the therapies for children, I strongly believe play therapy, particularly, child-centred play therapy is the most effective.

Child-centred play therapy is a gentle, indirect mode of therapy for children. The therapist is in the room to support the child’s play session. In child-centred play therapy, the therapist does not guide the play or the conversation. They are there to show reinforcement and reciprocate feelings and thoughts back to the child. This helps the child to understand their own actions and feelings and ultimately, hold power over them.

More specifically…

Research shows that children affected by trauma have underdeveloped ‘cortical modulation networks’. Very basically, brain cogs that control impulse­­, and other brain differences that make them very resistant to traditional talk-based interventions. In these cases, child-centred play therapy is highly recommended. (Gaskill & Perry, 2014)

Research also indicates positive effects of child-centred play therapy for children with behavioural disorders, psychosocial issues, physical and learning disabilities, and speech and language problems. Play based therapy has also shown to have great outcomes for children experiencing anxiety, abuse, domestic violence, depression, grief and loss, and post-traumatic stress. But it also has great benefits for milder symptoms and even for children who may just be a “little off”.

I believe child-centred play therapy is appropriate for all children in some way or another.

Additionally, I strongly hold the philosophy that play therapy is for the whole family. We all know, if a child’s behaviour is off it can alter the balance of an entire family unit. Not only that, but the relationship between a parent/caregiver and child is key to a child’s healthy emotional development.

What play therapy can do for a parent, inadvertently and more directly with the accompaniment of filial therapy, is give them an opportunity to communicate better with their child. When a child has undergone play therapy sessions and mastered their own emotions. They can express themselves better and a parent is able to respond to that expression rather than to behaviour. Which, without insight, can often portray a skewed message.

So why child-centred play therapy?

Research shows that child-centred play therapy in particular, and non-directive approaches were found to yield better outcomes for children than therapist-directed play approaches. Additionally, and what I try to push for with all clients, is positive treatment effects are found to be greatest when there was a parent actively involved in the child’s treatment. (Baggerly, Ray & Bratton, 2010; Landreth et al., 2010)

At Play Therapy Hub we have a strong philosophy that families should be involved in a child’s therapy. The more involved in treatment the parents (and families) are the better the outcomes for the child, and the family. Which is why we run Filial Therapy alongside our play therapy for children. Keeping the family involved in the process as best we can.

Other handy resources:

Bratton, S. C., Ray, D., Rhine, T., & Jones, C. (2005). The efficacy of play therapy with children: A meta-analytic review of treatment outcomes. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36(4), 376-390

Lin, Y., & Bratton, S. C. (2015). A meta-analytic review of child-centered play therapy approaches. Journal of Counselling and Development, 93(1), 45-58

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