Play Therapy Outside of the Playroom

Written by: Julia Vulic, CRC, PLPC, CPT
For Embark Counseling Services

Often, when people hear the term “play therapy,” they envision a therapist coloring or playing games with child clients. Though coloring and games may be part of a session, play therapy is a specialized field that involves specialized clinical skills, observations, and interventions. Play therapy also provides each child a safe and stable place to process any emotions that they may be facing. Aggression, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues, are a small number of the issues with which play therapy can be helpful.

If your child starts working with a play therapist, you’ll be informed of major developments, successes, etc. via parent sessions. Ideally, when a child reaches and maintains the goals outlined in their treatment plan, their sessions will become less frequent. Although this is a sign of growth, it can be scary to consider losing the support of your provider. Fortunately, just like you help your child practice for a spelling test, you can support them in the development of social, emotional, and life skills at home.

Play Therapy At  Home

  • Choose an area of your home to act as the designated playroom. Keep the location and meeting time(s) consistent. Depending on your child’s age, 45 to 60 minutes is the recommended amount of time to carry out a session.
  • Carve out time to truly be with your child,  alerting others in the home that you are not to be disturbed until your session is over. Attempt to clear your mind and follow their lead.  Do not put words into their mouths as directing their play may prohibit them from getting the most out of their play.
  • Set limits on inappropriate/unsafe behavior. Although your child will be leading the session by choosing what toys they want to use and how, they still need limits. Let them know that some things, such as attempting to shoot you in the face, are not okay. When setting the limit, try your best to stay calm and provide them with alternatives to the unwanted behavior. For example, you see your child becoming agitated and loading up a nerf gun before pointing it at your face. A beneficial response would involve you saying something along the lines of, “you’re angry and want to shoot me in the face but, it’s not okay to shoot me in the face. You can choose to shoot that pillow or stuffed animal.” By responding in such a way, you’re validating your child’s feelings, allowing them to still maintain a sense of control, and helping them with decision making skills/impulse control.
  • Let them know when time is almost up. When really engaged in a session, it can be hard for children to collect their thoughts and sort out what they are feeling. Cutting the session off without warning does not give them a chance to decompress. 5-minute and 1-minute warnings are recommended.

Don’t hesitate to ask your child’s therapist for advice. We’re here to help you help them!


Julia Vulic sees clients in our Northland Office. To schedule an appointment with Julia, please call (913) 257-3161.