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“When you focus on the problem, you lose sight of the child and it is not possible to establish a relationship with a problem," (Landreth, 2012).

Child Centered Play Therapy

Dr. Gary Landreth (2012) defines play therapy as a “dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child (or person of any age) and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures who provides selected play materials and facilitates the development of a safe relationship for the child (or person of any age) to fully express and explore the self (feeling, thoughts, experiences, behaviors) through play, the child’s natural medium of communication, for optimal growth and development.”

Adults talk in therapy as a way to express themselves. Children best communicate through play, which allows a child to express their feelings and thoughts, while the therapist provides a safe place for them to feel understood and accepted. Play is natural, voluntary and child directed. It involves the child making choices, which fosters the development of problem-solving skills, coping skills, understanding of their thoughts, feelings, behaviors and experiences.

A child centered play therapist in intentional about looking through the eyes of the child to understand their perception of self and experiences. This allows the child to build an understanding and accepting therapeutic relationship where the child feels safe enough to express themselves and explore experiences in their own unique way.

Play as a symbolic language

The self-expression of a child through play can reveal what the child has experienced reactions to what was experienced; feelings about what was experienced; what the child wishes, wants or needs; and the child’s perception of self. The toys become their words and the play is their language. Play allows them to live out the past experiences and feelings during the appointment, rather than discussing it like adults.

The populations CCPT works for are children ages 3-10 experiencing ADHD, Aggression and Behavioral difficulties, negative self-esteem, social skill deficits, teacher/student difficulties, academic achievement delays, anxiety and depression, parent/child difficulties, speech language delays and trauma.

CCPT is most effective with twice or once weekly formats and can last for 20+ sessions; however, length of time will depend on the individual needs of the child.

Play Therapy Considerations

•Bring your child to the appointment dressed in active wear that can get messy if they play with markers, crayons, sand, etc. All the items used are washable.

•Prior to the appointment, make sure your child has eaten and used the bathroom

•Remain in the waiting room during the appointment in case your child needs you

•After the appointment, refrain from asking your child about the appointment or if they had fun. Focus on making statements, such as “Hello, we get to go home now,” or “Hey, it’s time for us to go home now.” Your play therapist will update you on the progress through the patient portal or at your request to speak with the therapist separately.

•If you have any questions, concerns or comments, please call and speak with your play therapist or send a message through your patient portal. The patient portal is also where you can provide updates and feedback regarding your child in between appointments/the day of your appointment.

Please watch the following videos, for yourself and with your child, prior to the appointment as it will be a way to introduce play therapy to yourself and your child.

For Children:

For Parents:

For more information, please visit

Landreth, G. (2012). Play therapy: the art of the relationship. Newy York, NY: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

Ray, D. (2011). Advanced play therapy: essential conditions, knowledge, and skills for child practice. New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

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White Flag Building, Suite 119

Spokane, WA 99202

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