Although sometimes used with adults, play therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach primarily used to help children ages 3 to 12 explore their lives and freely express repressed thoughts and emotions through play. Therapeutic play normally takes place in a safe, comfortable playroom. There are very few rules or limits that are imposed on the child. This encourages free expression and allows the Psychologist to observe the child’s choices, decisions, and play style. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in healthier ways, become more respectful and empathetic, and discover new, positive ways to solve problems.
Therapeutic play helps children with social or emotional deficits learn to communicate better, change their behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and relate to others in positive ways. It is appropriate for children undergoing or witnessing stressful events in their lives, such as a serious illness or hospitalization, domestic violence, abuse, trauma, a family crisis, or an upsetting change in their environment. Play therapy can help children with academic and social problems, learning disabilities, behavioural disorders, anxiety, depression, grief, or anger, as well as those with attention deficit disorders or who are on the autism spectrum.