Christian BellissimoMSW, LCSW, RPT

Child Play Therapist

About Play Therapy

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is an intervention where children use play to access their natural capacity for healing. In play therapy, children express how they feel about themselves, the significant people in their lives, and their experiences. A play therapist is a mental health professional who is trained to assess, interpret, and utilize children’s play to help reduce or eliminate symptomatic behaviors and optimize developmental functioning.

Why Use Play?

Play is the children's most natural means for expression and communication. It is fun and occurs spontaneously, often with minimal direction from the play therapist. Play also provides the child a safe psychological distance for children to confront even the most serious problems.

A meta-analysis of 96 research studies published between 1953 and 2000, evaluating the effectiveness of play therapy, found significant, positive treatment outcomes. (Bratton, Rhine, & Jones, 2002).

The Play Therapy Relationship

The foundation of play therapy is the relationship that is established between the play therapist or participating adult and the child. In play therapy, children express themselves in an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance, safety and trust. Through repetitive play and play rehearsal, children develop a feeling of control over a problem, feeling, or circumstance which they previously felt powerless. The play therapist maintains appropriate boundaries, setting limits on the child's behavior when necessary. Limits help the child develop essential problem solving and coping skills.

Adult-Child Play Therapy

In adult-child play therapy, the child's parent or guardian is directly involved in the play sessions. Through the use of a one-way mirror and ear bud technology, the adult is trained to interact with the child in a structured, empathic, and supportive manner using the basic play skills utilized by the therapist. This treatment approach is strongly supported by play therapy research and has many benefits, including; strengthening the adult-child attachment, improving parenting skills, and reducing or eliminating problem behaviors. It is common for children to begin play therapy receiving individual sessions, then transition to adult-child play therapy.

How Long Does Play Therapy Take?

Sessions are usually held weekly, and are 30-45 minutes, depending on the child's age and developmental level. While the length of treatment varies, most children attend an average of 20 sessions.
To learn more about Play Therapy, watch the video below
(produced by The Association for Play Therapy).