"Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities."

-Stuart Brown, MD
Contemporary American psychiatrist

What is Play Therapy?

The Association of Play Therapy play therapy defines the practice  as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."


More simply put, 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.  Licensed mental health professionals therapeutically use play to help their clients.


Play Therapy works best when a safe relationship is created between the therapist and client, one in which the latter may freely and naturally express both what pleases and bothers them.


Play Therapy is used as a primary intervention or as supportive therapy for:

  • Behavioral problems, such as anger management, grief and loss, divorce and abandonment, and crisis and trauma.

  • Behavioral disorders, such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), autism or pervasive developmental, academic and social developmental, physical and learning disabilities, and conduct disorders. 


Research suggests Play Therapy is an effective mental health approach, regardless of age, gender, or the nature of the problem, and works best when a parent, family member, or caretaker is actively involved in the treatment process."  This includes adults!  I frequently use play therapy with parents as an intervention to help them navigate their own child's behavior, which is also incorporated into Filial Therapy (Family Play Therapy).


What is Drama Therapy?

As described by the North American Drama Therapy Association, “Drama Therapy is an active, experiential approach to facilitating change. Through storytelling, projective play, purposeful improvisation, and performance, participants are invited to rehearse desired behaviors, practice being in relationship, expand and find flexibility between life roles, and perform the change they wish to be and see in the world.”

Drama Therapy takes many forms, but most importantly, it is relational.  Because of the inherent value of healing within relationship, I find drama therapy the most beneficial means to work for my own personal style.  When a child heals within the therapeutic relationship, the experience guides a child through healing other relationships in his/her life as well- including the relationship with the self.   Trauma can be approached through metaphor.  Loss can be symbolized through ritual.  Theatre arts have been healing for centuries.  Drama Therapy applies this healing quality in a purposeful, playful way using distance safe enough to explore weighted topics, yet close enough to feel the impact of change.

I primarily use a style of drama therapy called, “Developmental Transformations” (DvT).  DvT encourages resiliency through the instability of life.   As described by its creators, “DvT privileges improvisational and embodied interaction over exploration or role repertoire or story, and training focuses on one’s abilities to use themselves and their capacity to communicate in subtle ways, through their own bodily movement, speech, sounds, gaze, and personality.”  DvT permits clients to explore the feelings that arise through interpersonal and intrapersonal interaction, honor our experience, and grow our capacity for being with the difficulty that arises from our personal shadows.


What is Filial Therapy?

Filial Therapy could be described as a combination of both family therapy and play therapy.  Filial combines play and parenting skills to help address a family and child’s difficulties.  During the process, caregivers learn to provide structured, special play time with their child.  The work is both child-centered and attachment-focused.  Through the work, parents can become an advocate of healing for their child based on the power of the relationship enhanced by this specialized form of play.  The child is the director, and the parent enters the child’s play world as the actor.  Imagination, empathy, limit setting, and structure guide both participants through the experience, and a deeper relationship is frequently the result.


This is an evidence-based approach that remains solution-focused. Through consistent, parental-led special play time therapy sessions, the child develops stronger expressive skills and identifies feelings of empowerment, stronger attachment, and worthiness. 


“It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”

D.W. Winnicott
British pediatrician