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Cell: +27 (0)83 379 3595
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2 Clyde Street, Woodstock
Cape Town, South Africa


Practice No.: 0860000386545
HPCSA Registration No.: PS 0109231
Languages: Fluent in English & Afrikaans

Play therapy

What is play therapy and how does it work?

It is probably obvious, even to people who have never been involved in counselling children, that we cannot counsel children in the same way that we counsel adults. We counsel adults by sitting down with them and inviting them to talk with us. If we were to take the same approach with children, many of them would say nothing except to answer direct questions. They simply do not have the language or abstract thinking ability to express themselves in this way.

Play Therapy is therefore a specific counselling approach where games, toys and mediums such as clay, drawings and paint are used to help children to express their emotions, thoughts, wishes and needs. It helps them to understand muddled feelings and upsetting events that they have not had the chance or the skills to process in any other way. Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, as adult therapy usually expects, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling interrogated or threatened.

When should I bring my child for therapy?

It is very important that emotional and behavioural problems are dealt with as soon as possible. If left untreated these problems may cause a child and his family a great deal of distress. These problems tend to snowball quickly, but if addressed, symptoms can also disappear just as quickly.

If you find that your child displays strange, uncharacteristic behaviour (like being aggressive, destructive, withdrawn) after a specific stressful event (like divorce, new school, birth of a sibling, death) and this behaviour lasts for at least two weeks, it probably is time to seek professional help.

Sometimes your child's behaviour may be inappropriate even if there is no specific stressor that you are aware of. Or the cause of the behaviour may be something totally different from that which you have imagined. Or your child may have had problems with regulating emotions from an early age and does not seem to be getting any better. In such cases it is recommended that you speak to a professional who will advise you if it is necessary for you to take your child for therapy.

Research has shown that play therapy can successfully address issues related to:

  • Self-concept & self-esteem
  • Getting along with peers and dealing with bullying
  • Adapting to new situations (such as a new school or family set-up)
  • Psychosomatic behaviour (such as stomach ache, headaches, anxiousness, bed-wetting)
  • Trauma (such as divorce, break-inns, serious accidents)
  • Nightmares
  • Anger
  • Shyness
  • Grief