What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. Play therapy utilizes play, children's natural medium of expression, to help them express their feelings more easily through toys instead of words.

Association for Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy 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." 

In the textbook Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship (2nd ed.), Landreth (2002) defined child-centered play therapy:  

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 self (feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors) through play, the child's natural medium of communication, for optimal growth and development. (p. 16)

Explaining play therapy to children should be done in appropriate language for their developmental level. Dr. Dee Ray's Introduction to Play Therapy for Children video introduces play therapy to children:


Created by:

Dee Ray, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, RPT-S
Professor-Counseling Program
Director-Child and Family Resource Clinic
University of North Texas


Dr. Ray also created a video for introducing play therapy to parents:


Created by:

Dee Ray, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, RPT-S
Professor-Counseling Program
Director-Child and Family Resource Clinic
University of North Texas