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  • Writer's pictureDeb Banning

What are the Benefits of Play Therapy?

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Firstly, let's understand what Play Therapy actually is.

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a therapeutic approach which stimulates the innate, creative, non-verbal capacities of children. The advantages of child-centred play therapy, is that it gives the child choices regarding how to share any concerns they may have, at a time(s) when they are ready to do so. Play therapy is best suited for children aged 3 years to 10 years of age. However younger children, even infants, benefit from Play Therapy as a tool for early intervention.

Play Therapy is an overarching term that encompasses many therapeutic methods that use play as a tool. Play Therapy is a fun, flexible and open approach to therapy. For example, play allows an Occupational Therapist to build upon a fundamental and innate learning process that a child already has, and one within which they can naturally and comfortably engage in, without the need for them to communicate verbally.

Using play therapy, children can act out / role play their inner and real life experiences in a way that allows children to express, regulate, communicate, practice and master new skills and emotional responses. It is a developmentally appropriate, evidence-based therapeutic approach for working with children and young people. Therapeutic play builds on the developmental appropriateness of play and offers a structured approach to intervention for children’s problems. (Source: Australian Psychological Society).

Play Therapy focuses on the interactions between two people, whether this is in the form of joint play (working together on a task) or parallel play (where the child is working alongside a therapist). Through play, children learn skills to support their various roles within different environments, ie: as a friend, as a play group member, as a school student, as a sibling, etc.

Play Therapy can be used as a creative counselling method that optimises children's ability to express and explore troubling thoughts, feelings, experiences and wishes in a developmentally appropriate way.

How is Play Therapy Delivered?

Play therapy facilitates the exploration of a child's concerns / presenting issues, through a trusted relationship and creative play. Fundamental to success, is the creation of a warm, caring and accepting relationship between the child and therapist, to facilitate the child's expression of emotions, which in turn allows the therapist to gain insights and create a beneficial therapeutic intervention program for the child.

​Depending on the child's abilities, age, presenting issues, or stage of therapy, a therapist may use various approaches in play therapy. Often, during the early stages of therapy, to establish comfort and a positive relationship between the therapist and the child, the 'non-intrusive, unconscious responding method' or 'non directive method' - best described as 'parallel play' or 'copying' - may be used. This approach is often also very useful for traumatised, non-verbal or self-directed children.

At the other end of the spectrum, open discussions and exploration methods may also be used, while also involving play, to assist with specific skill development. This 'directive' method is also often used with older children. A combination of the above approaches may also be used.

What are the Benefits of Play Therapy?

Some potential benefits of Play Therapy include taking more responsibility for certain behaviours, developing coping strategies and creative problem-solving skills, empathy and respect for others, learning to experience and express feelings appropriately, developing stronger social skills, strengthening family and social relationships, encouraging the use of language and improving fine and gross motor skills.

Play Therapy can be beneficial for children with:

  • chronic illnesses or who are in palliative care

  • developmental delays or learning disabilities

  • problematic or aggressive behaviours

  • anxiety or depression

  • with eating and toileting issues

  • conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, etc.

  • English is a second language

  • or those who are victims of domestic violence, abuse or neglect.

Play Therapy supports the attainment of therapy goals by targeting the development of specific skills or performance components, through techniques such as creative visualisation, storytelling, role playing, arts and crafts, water and sand play, blocks and construction toys and creative movement within both directive or non-directive approaches.

Why is Play Therapy Beneficial for Children?

Most children do not have the well-developed verbal and spoken language that an adult does, and they use play as their main medium for expression of their feelings, and is a way to explore relationships, to describe experiences and to attain self-fulfillment.

Play is something that occurs between an individual and the environment, which is intrinsically motivated, internally controlled and free of many of the constraints of objective reality. For children, play is a major means in which competence is developed and is their primary expression of purposeful activity and engagement. In this way, play gives a child the opportunity to learn about physical, social, emotional abilities and skills.

Play, is a way to learn and develop interests and skills in concentration, problem solving, judgement and executive functioning. It also allows the child to learn about roles, behaviours and expectations. Play can be used to gain a child's attention, to practice specific motor and functional skills, to promote sensory processing, perceptual abilities, to practice cognitive skills and to develop language and communication skills.

Family Agility Can Help You, Your Child & Your Family

​At Family Agility, we always take a neurodiversity-affirmative approach to your child's therapy and we include Family Goals in everything that we do. Our specially trained Occupational Therapists are highly qualified and experienced in assisting children, young people and families with physical, sensory, cognitive or behavioural issues through play therapy.

Family Agility, under it's parent company, Body Agility Pty Ltd, are nationally registered NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) providers of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, play therapy, speech therapy, exercise physiology and therapy assistance. Experience the Family Agility difference and experience exceptional care and customer service. We take the time to understand your child's NDIS Goals - along with your family goals, so that the whole family benefits from our supports.

What are YOUR family's goals? We can help. Contact us now, we have capacity to provide services to you immediately, right across the broader Perth region with home & school / daycare visits, or at one of our clinics / gyms / any hydropool - or via video consultation (telehealth). We'd be delighted to hear from you.


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