Helping Children Heal is Not Mere Child’s Play

I am so pleased to have Registered Play Therapist, Gwendolyn W. Smith, LCSW, RPT, in our office. Gwen brings over 20 years of counseling to our group and, as a play therapist, she is able to work successfully with even the youngest of children. I have asked Gwen to be a guest blogger today to talk a little about why play therapy is so effective. Following are her comments:


I have had many people ask me, “Why play therapy? Can’t you just talk to my child to help him work through his problems?” Of course, we therapists can “just talk” to children and encourage them to follow along and think through their problems, but this is not the best way to reach children. Play can make therapy so much richer and meaningful to a child and here are five reasons why:

1. Play is a natural form of expression for children

Play is the language of children. Their toys are their words and their play activities tell the story of what they’re experiencing. Your child may not be able to tell you he is afraid of his teacher but when he picks up a dinosaur to be the teacher and a mouse to be him, the message is clear.

2. Play meets children where they are

Play helps a therapist to gauge your child’s physical, emotional, and social development and use that knowledge to work at that level, helping to make your child feel safe and comfortable.

3. Play is a natural way for children to learn

Play gives your child a chance to try out solutions through the experience of the pretend world. Instead of telling a child he can say no when he needs to, play gives him the opportunity to practice saying no.

4. Play provides safety and distance

When a child is playing in therapy, the action is in the sand tray and the child is outside; he can let down his guard and see the situation with a new perspective. He is more able to express, observe, and even direct events in the tray where he has some control and objectivity.

5. Play allows the family to work together

Play provides an opportunity for family members to learn new ways of interacting with each other. When necessary, a play therapist can assist in supporting change to the dynamics between siblings or between parent and child that may need attention.

In summary, play therapy provides a safe and effective way for your child to become more self-assured and confidence to deal with their difficulties and to develop skills that will carry him into the teen years and beyond. A play therapist’s skills and training can translate what looks like simple play activity into a profound therapeutic experience.


Thanks, again, to Gwen for presenting some compelling reasons for seeking Play Therapy to help your struggling child. We look forward to more from Gwen on play therapy and why you would want to choose a Registered Play Therapist (RPT) to work with your child in an upcoming blog. For more information, contact Gwen at