Early Approaches

Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses play as a medium for communication and exploration of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It is primarily used with children and is based on the idea that play is a child’s natural language, and a way for them to express themselves while working through a difficult experience. The history of play therapy can be traced back to the early 1900’s. Play therapy has been widely used and researched in various settings, and is considered an effective treatment method.

One of the earliest forms of play therapy was based in psychotherapy. It was used as a medium for communication and emotion exploration. It was also helpful for understanding the thoughts and behaviors of children as well. One of the first therapists to use this approach was Melanie Klein. In the early 1900’s, she used play as a way to understand the child at a deeper level. 

Development in America

Two other notable figures in the history of play therapy are Carl Rogers and Virginia Axline. Rogers was an American psychologist that helped found the branch of humanistic psychology. He developed a form of play therapy called “client-centered play therapy” which emphasized the importance of the child’s perspective and their self-direction. Axline was another American psychologist that developed a form of play therapy called “nondirective play therapy” which emphasized the importance of the therapist’s non-directive and accepting attitude. One book she wrote about this is called, Dibs: in search of self. This book is considered to be a cornerstone of play therapy in the field. The work of both of these therapists and many more helped to lay the foundation of play therapy as a recognized modality.

Methods and Settings

There are a variety of different types of play therapy. One type of play therapy that is common is sand tray therapy. In sand tray play therapy, the therapist uses a sand tray and miniature figurines to help the child express their thoughts and feelings. The therapist observes the child while they play how they wish with these toys. Some other types of play therapy are directive play therapy, non-directive play therapy, art play therapy, music play therapy, and more.

Play therapy is used today in a variety of settings. These settings include mental health clinics, hospitals, schools, private practices, and more. In schools, play therapy is a great tool for students who may be exhibiting emotional and behavioral problems. It can also just be used as a preventative measure to promote social and emotional well-being. Many mental health professionals, such as licensed counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists are trained in play therapy and use it as a tool in their practice.

Play Therapy in the Future

Play therapy is a great way for therapists to connect and work with children. Playing is a great way for children to express themselves, and it is something that they are comfortable with. In the future, play therapy is expected to continue to expand and grow. This may allow us to further understand the effectiveness of different types of play therapy. Technology may also further play therapy, as it could possibly be integrated into play therapy sessions. The future is bright for play therapy and the healing of children.