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Playing with Doll House


“A dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures who provides selected play materials and facilitates the development of a safe relationship for the child to fully express and explore self through play, the child's natural medium of communication, for optimal growth and development..”​

— Garry L. Landreth, EdD, LPC, RPT-S

What is Child Centered Play Therapy?

The childhood and adolescence years are critical times for physical and mental development. Development of good mental health is important for overall good health and well-being throughout one’s lifespan. Just like adults, children experience emotional health issues, mental health issues, and mood disorders. According to the National Institute of Health, 20% of children from ages 3-17 in the United States suffer from mental health issues and/or have an identifiable mental disorder that requires treatment. Similar to adults, psychotherapy is beneficial in improving and supporting the mental health of children.  Unlike adults, the treatment of children looks different due to the stages of cognitive development, emotional aptitude, and less life experience that can contribute to healthy coping. 


In treating children, it is important to practice developmentally appropriate therapy that can support children and their parents in facing mental health issues such different types of anxiety, depression, mood disorders, conduct disorders, different neurodivergent differences (such as ADHD, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder and various learning differences), and trauma.


Play therapy is a well-studied, empirically valid, and developmentally appropriate method of treatment for children ages 3 through pre-adolescents. Just like adults talk out their feelings, children use their natural medium of self-expression play in order to communicate their feelings. According to the Association of Play Therapy, “child 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 the child – play.” Play therapy is practiced by licensed mental health professionals who therapeutically use play to help their clients, most often children ages three to twelve years, to better express themselves and resolve their problems. The therapist works to foster a safe relationship between the therapist and client so that the child may freely and naturally express their emotions, express themselves, process their life events, learn and develop coping skills, and more! Through play therapy, the child is given a developmentally appropriate way to receive support in develop coping skills, growing in responsibility, and decision-making skills.


Have more questions about play therapy? Check out the Association of Play Therapy’s website HERE!

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