What is Play Therapy

At Play Therapy ACT, we offer a special technique of counselling for children, called Child Centred Play Therapy. It is a non-directive approach in that it does not involve a direct teaching of skills or behaviours that you might find in other therapies.  In Child Centred Play Therapy, the child leads the therapist towards the issues that they need to resolve.  This is done through play and using the toys in the room. The toys have been carefully chosen to match likely themes we see children play in therapy.  Feelings that are too confronting or abstract to express directly, can be projected onto the toys or through role play. Sometimes the therapist may decide to modify the therapy if a child has limited play skills or difficulty connecting with the toys

Child Centred Play Therapy assists children to make sense of difficult emotions, behaviours and experiences.  Play is how most children will naturally express themselves. The play therapist’s role is to “be with” the child as they play out the issues that are bothering them. The therapist provides a safe and accepting environment and importantly remains non-judgemental about the child’s behaviour. Instead, the therapist will reflect the emotions that are observed in words the child can understand. This validation is very important for emotional growth.


The theoretical background to Child-Centred Play Therapy is from Carl Rogers’ humanistic client-centred approach to personal growth.  Rogers developed his theory around the idea that if an individual is fully accepted in therapy, their own strengths at problem-solving the issues are likely to be harnessed, and emotional growth will occur.

Virginia Axline, an American psychologist, developed Child-Centred Play Therapy as a technique for children, after working with Carl Rogers. She famously documented an aspect of her work in her book, “Dibs in Search of Self”.  More recently, Garry Landreth and his colleagues, developed Child Centred Play Therapy and the training requirements to become a play therapist and it is this version of the technique that is now widely used.

Child and Parent Relationship Training

At Play Therapy ACT, we also offer the Child and Parent Relationship Training, a 10-week programme for parents or primary care-givers, to learn the technique to use at home.  This is a sustainable parenting education and strategy, as it involves building play-time with your child and learning the effective skills of reflective parenting.

Our senior play therapist, Jane De Salis, works with families to teach them the skills of this technique.  The aim of the programme is to strengthen the relationship between a parent (or primary care-giver) and a child by using 30-minute play-times, once a week.  Parents use a kit of carefully selected toys in their own home, and they learn how to respond empathically to their child’s feelings, build their child’s self-esteem, and help their child learn self-control and self-responsibility.  This is not a typical play-time. It is a special playtime where the child leads and the parent follows.

To find out more about this programme, please call us at Play Therapy ACT.  A specific intake is required, and places are limited.

How Can it Help my Child

Play therapy helps children in a range of ways including:

  • Developing confidence and a positive self-esteem
  • Finding useful ways to communicate feelings and emotions, that are developmentally appropriate.
  • Building resilience and coping skills
  • Improving emotion regulation
  • Increasing self-awareness and improved self-concepts
  • Enhancing and validating their own capabilities
  • Strengthening the capacity to relate to others, and to feel connected
  • Creating opportunities to problem-solve which can be generalised into their own every day lives

Children are given the opportunity to form a strong play relationship where they feel accepted just as they are, and therefore, understood.  This forms the basis of the work the child will do in the play room, and they will play out many of their problems, at the same time, releasing tensions, and difficult feelings.  Children start to feel a greater self-responsibility and they grow in confidence, taking charge of play situations.