Frequently Asked Questions

How can I learn more about Play Therapy?

The Association for Play Therapy has an excellent video which explains more about play therapy.

What problems does play therapy help my child overcome?

If a child needs counseling, play therapy is usually the answer.

Some of these problems include:

  • Depression
  • Anger
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety / fears
  • Conduct disorders
  • Abuse issues (physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse)
  • Aggression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor social skills
  • Impulsivity
  • Learning difficulties
  • Divorce issues
  • Coping skills issues
  • Handling trauma
  • Grief
  • or many other childhood problems

Who can provide play therapy for my child?

Play therapy is very different than just playing with a child, and therefore only a therapist with training in play therapy should provide this service for you and your child.

It is okay for you to ask questions about therapist’s training in play therapy, their areas of specialization, and their experience in providing play therapy.

To find a Registered Play Therapist in your area, we invite you to search the Association for Play Therapy Find a Play Therapist directory.

What should I tell my child about play therapy?

When bringing the child for the first session, the child can be told that he/she will be coming each week for a little while to play in the playroom.

Children love to play and it usually does not take a lot much for them to enjoy themselves during the session. Parents should be truthful with children and tell them they are going to see a counselor. Then explain in an age-appropriate manner what role the counselor plays and what to expect during the session.

Some examples of how to describe what a counselor does is: they are someone who talks to lots of children about problems, worries and mixed up feelings, they are a “feelings” helper, someone who has the fun job of playing with kids.

Discussing this conversation with the play therapist prior to the session is also helpful. They will be able to guide you on how to best tell your child on their level. If your child exhibits anxiety about the session contact the counselor prior to session to discuss the child’s response.

Some parents tell children it is like going to see a doctor. Since most children have anxieties about doctors, this is not a good similarity.

How long will it take?

Since it is based on the development of the relationship with the child there is not usually a specific time frame.

The therapist will work toward establishing a therapeutic relationship with you child and employ techniques that he/she feels will best suit your child’s needs. Play therapy allows the child to work at their pace and sometimes issues are resolved quickly and sometimes it takes longer particularly if the issues are trauma related.

Your child’s play therapist can give you more guidelines based on your child and/or families particular reasons for seeking counseling.

How does just playing help a child who has been traumatized?

Play is a child’s language.

Children tell about worries through play just as adults do through words. Counselors can help the child process these worries by listening (watching) and accepting the child where he/she is in the trauma.

Why is it important for parents to watch their children play and tell them what they are doing?

Children speak through play.

By watching and reflecting what your child is doing, you are telling your child you are concerned and interested. Your child, in turn, feels that he/she is important and worthy of your attention.

Why do you feel play therapy works better than normal “talking” therapy?

Children often have difficulty communicating complex feelings and emotions with words.

Play provides a means for this communication while engaging the child in something they naturally do and enjoy already.

Can I be in the play room with my child?

This depends a great deal on the goals of your child’s therapy and the techniques that their play therapist will use.

Typically the child’s play therapy session is with just the therapist. There are many reasons for this such as:

  • Decreasing the influence of parents/caregivers on the child’s play
  • Limit the child monitoring their parent for feedback or approval
  • Providing an opportunity for the child to work as they need to in a therapeutic environment

However, some play therapists also utilize more family play therapy techniques such as filial therapy which involve significant parent/caregiver participation. The best approach is to talk to your child’s play therapist about any concerns you may have.

Your child’s therapist can further explain the goals and techniques used in play therapy and why it is beneficial for your child to have their session independent from caregivers.

How can I join AAPT?

AAPT is a chartered branch of APT.

Thus, we have a dual membership arrangement. This means you join the national organization APT and the state branch which for Alabama is AAPT. As a mental health professional with a Master’s degree or higher, you may become a professional member of APT/AAPT.

As a fulltime mental health graduate student or other non mental health professional you may join as an affiliate member.

You may join anytime. Your anniversary month is the month in which you join. Full details and membership application are available here.

Join APT now!

Do you have to be a member of APT/AAPT to attend the workshops?

No, anyone can attend our workshops.

However, if you are a member of APT/AAPT you get a discount on the cost of the workshop as well as other member benefits.

How do you become a Registered Play Therapist?

There are three types of Play Therapy credentials:

  • Registered Play Therapist (RPT)
  • Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S)
  • School Based-Registered Play Therapist (SB-RPT)

Visit our Play Therapy Certification page for details.

For what disciplines does the Association for Play Therapy provide Continuing Education?

We are approved CE providers for LPCs, LMFTs, RPTs, and LCSWs.

We are currently working on expanding this but those are all the disciplines covered at this time.

What is the difference between directive and non directive play therapy?

There are two main schools of thought in the world of play therapy.

They are non directive and directive.

Non directive play therapy, also called child-centered play therapy, is where the child leads the play in the session. The focus of the session is the child, not the problem of the child.

Directive play therapy, also sometimes called prescriptive play therapy, is where the play therapist identifies and prescribes a technique to address a specific issue. The focus of the session is addressing the therapeutic issue/problem.

Is play therapy just for children?

Play therapy is not just for children.

Play therapy techniques, including those modalities involving symbolic work are useful with adult populations. They are easily incorporated when adults find themselves “stuck” in traditional talk therapy.

The use of symbols allows for emotional distance and creates a sense of safety for clients to work through powerful emotions and is a way of communicating the “unspeakable.” Play therapy lends itself well to role rehearsal leading to mastery over an event in the clients’ lives.

Additionally, it is creative, fun and joyful, qualities that are helpful in the treatment of stress and healing for the mind and spirit.