Play Therapy: What is it and how can it help my child?

Colleen Daly MartinezPresenter: Colleen Daly Martinez, PhD, LCSW, RPT-S
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In this webinar, Dr. Martinez discussed the differences between traditional talk psychotherapy and play therapy. She reviewed some of the history and theories of play therapy, and discussed how and when play therapy might be beneficial to children, adolescents, and even adults. Dr. Martinez discussed credentials that play therapists might hold, as well as how someone might locate play therapists if they were interested in doing so.


  1. NJCTS says:

    Are there other things I should do, or consider, before seeking play therapy, or any kind of psychotherapy?

    • DrMartinez says:

      Question: Are there other things I should do, or consider, before seeking play therapy, or any kind of psychotherapy?

      Response: I’d suggest if you have concerns about how your child is doing, emotionally or behaviorally, that you first discuss your concerns with your child’s other caregivers (parent, child care provider, teacher, pediatrician). Hearing someone else’s perspective of your child can often help you figure out if the challenges are typical, developmentally appropriate, or something else.

  2. NJCTS says:

    Tell me how I could present your model to imbed play services in schools.

    • DrMartinez says:

      I actually co-authored an article in Play Therapy Magazine about how we made it happen in Irvington, NJ. Look at page 14 of this publication for the article. Association for Play Therapy, the publisher and copyright owner, gave me permission to share this link with you.

  3. NJCTS says:

    What should I tell my child about going to see a play therapist?

    • DrMartinez says:

      Once you have made the decision to seek Play Therapy, and you have decided that you feel comfortable with the Play Therapist you’ve chosen, I’d encourage you to ask them how to explain Play Therapy to your child.

      When parents and caregivers bring children to me, I have them explain to the child that they are bringing them to someone who helps kids with their problems and worries, through talking and playing.

  4. NJCTS says:

    Will the play therapist tell me about how my child plays in play therapy?

    • DrMartinez says:

      It depends. Please ask your child’s Play Therapist about what you can expect. It may surprise you to hear this, but even young children are entitled to, and benefit from, a confidential therapy relationship.

      Now, of course, confidentiality for a 3 year old is very different than confidentiality for a 13 year old. However, it’s likely that a Play Therapist will not tell you everything that your child does in her play, just as a talk therapist will not tell you everything that your child talks about in therapy.

  5. NJCTS says:

    What should I do if I have concerns or worries about how play therapy is going?

    • DrMartinez says:

      Please talk to the Play Therapist! While Play Therapy is quite powerful and can help to make very important changes, good communication and collaboration between parents, caregivers, and Play Therapist is equally important. Most Play Therapists will plan to meet with parents and caregivers on a regular basis to talk about concerns and progress. Use that time to give feedback, ask questions, and express concerns. If you don’t have a plan to meet alone with the Play Therapist any time soon, leave a phone message or otherwise ask the therapist when you can meet to talk about how things are going. In my experience, it’s usually best to do this when your child isn’t present.

  6. NJCTS says:

    My child is seeing a play therapist now. Should I ask my child about how therapy is going?

    • DrMartinez says:

      Ask your child’s Play Therapist what they advise.

      In my practice, I encourage parents and caregivers to follow the child’s lead; if the child wants to talk about their Play Therapy session, they should listen, but if the child doesn’t bring it up, let them have their privacy. While Play Therapy is often fun, we do need to remember that children are doing work in Play Therapy, often hard work, and they may not feel like talking about it.

      I also discourage parents and caregivers from saying, “have fun!” before sessions, or asking, “did you have a good time?” afterward, for the same reason.

  7. NJCTS says:

    Do you have some reading materials or references for professionals to read?

    • NJCTS says:

      Selected references for clinicians:

      Gil, E., & Drewes, A. A. (Eds.). (2015). Cultural issues in play therapy. Guilford Publications.

      Gil, E. (2014). Play in family therapy. Guilford Publications.

      Knell, S. M., & Dasari, M. (2011). Cognitive-behavioral play therapy.
      Play in clinical practice: Evidence-based approaches, 236-263.

      Kottman, T. (2014). Play therapy: Basics and beyond. John Wiley & Sons.

      Landreth, G. L. (2012). Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship, 3rd Edition. NY: Routledge.

      Schaefer, C. E. (Ed.) (2011), Foundations of Play Therapy, 2nd Edition. NY: Wiley.

      Webb, N. B. (Ed.) (2015). Play Therapy with Children in Crisis: A Case Book for Practitioners, 4th Edition. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

    • NJCTS says:

      A brief public service announcement about Play therapy from the Association for Play Therapy:

      Colleen Daly Martinez Consultation and Supervision on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Colleen-Daly-Martinez-Consultation-and-Supervision-111989215493736/

      Colleen Daly Martinez Consultation and Supervision on Google Blogger http://colleendalymartinez.blogspot.com/