Play Therapy Q & A

Play Therapy is an approach to the therapeutic process that incorporates play into the session. It changes therapy from the traditional “talk therapy” model into a place where communication looks, sounds, and feels different.

While there may be a basic understanding of what play therapy might be, or could be, based solely on assumptions/extrapolations/context clues from its name, there also may be some curiosities about how it is actually set up in a practice, especially when it used with kids and teens.

Kids playing outside, happy after receiving Play Therapy services at Marble Wellness, a counseling practice in St. Louis, MO

So, we wanted to answer some of those Frequently Asked Questions!

How does Marble Wellness use play therapy?

We have a therapist who utilizes play therapy techniques with kids, teens, and adults. How she uses play therapy approaches with adults will be addressed in another blog soon! For the purposes of these FAQs, we decided to keep our focus on play therapy with kids and teens.

What does the first session with the child look like?

If you’ve been in therapy as an adult, you know the first session is where the therapist often takes a “history” of your life and experiences. They try to hear from you about what you’ve been experiencing lately and what you hope to get out of the therapy process. In one sense, a first play therapy session is similar: the therapist getting to know the child and having the child volunteer a lot of information. The therapist gives the child an idea of what to expect from sessions and starts talking to them about their life: who is in their family; what things they like to do; what school looks and feels like. The therapist also starts to get a sense from the child about what’s hard for them. A lot of times, a Q&A game is used where the therapist and child take turns answering questions so the child doesn’t feel like they are being interrogated or put on the spot.

How often do you consult with/talk to parents/guardians while you are working with the child?

Father and son playing together after a Play Therapy session in West County, MO with a Marble Wellness therapist

This is very much based on several elements, one of which is parental preference! Usually, the therapist will touch base every couple of weeks or sessions with the parent, unless the situation is more difficult, in which case a more frequent check-in may be called for. Like so much about therapy, this will end up being decided on a case-by-case basis and may even change once (or a few times) during the therapeutic process. But, parents can expect to hear from the therapist at least on occasion—we aren’t going to freeze out the guardians! In fact, therapy for your child will work best when you and the therapist are working together and are on the same page. Which means we will make sure to keep you looped into the process in a way that is best for you and your child!

How often are parents in session?

This is a GREAT question and again, one that gets decided depending on the family unit, what the child is coming to therapy for, and a few other factors.

At our practice, the very first session is actually with the parent(s). It really helps to have focused, uninterrupted time to hear from them about concerns, and for our therapist to be able to get a lot of information about a variety of things. It also helps set the stage for the parent(s) to be more comfortable about their child meeting alone with the therapist, because they met the therapist first! It also gives them a chance to see the space or, if using virtual therapy, to understand what that feels like and how it rolls out.

Beyond that initial session, there isn’t a firm answer we can give about how often parents will be in session with their child and the therapist. There may be times that having parents in session as little as possible is going to create the most impact of play therapy for your child. Other times, a pop-in from guardians-depending on how receptive they are to participating-will be appropriate and aid the impact of child counseling.