“Enter into children’s play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts, and souls meet.”
— VIRGINIA AXLINE —
When children are hurting and need support, we are here. We care.
As a parent, all you want is for your child to be happy, get along with others and enjoy school, their friends and family and activities. Your child is likely exhibiting feelings and behaviors that you do not fully understand. At Embark Counseling, our child counselors are experts in child development, and provide you the peace of mind in supporting you with your child’s mental wellness needs, and your family throughout the therapy process. Therapy for children is different from what we would expect as adults. When adults face difficult situations, or trauma, they can talk through their thoughts and feelings, analyze what they have experienced and problem solve. For children, they often have difficulty communicating what they have experienced, regulating their emotions and finding ways to manage and problem solve through their experience.
Our therapeutic work with children provides exactly what children need developmentally to work through their situations, while learning new emotion regulation and communication skills. Our work with children is grounded in developmental theories, and each session is intentional in promoting your child’s development and learning new ways to communicate, problem solve, improve social skills and emotional regulation skills.
At Embark Counseling Services, we believe that you are the expert on your child, and also may feel at a loss with how to help your child. We are trained in various therapeutic approaches to best help your child, and you, on your healing journey and learning new skills to feel better. Our counselors are here to find your success in parenting and family life, and have been specifically trained to understand the root core of what is challenging your child. We intentionally provide parent consultations, in tandem with your child’s therapy, to help you better understand what your child is going through and how to help and support your child through their healing and learning the new skills. Research is rich in identifying that parents and caregivers are integral in the child’s healing and integration of new skills into their world. As a Family Systems practice, we may recommend additional support with other professionals, either within our practice or in our community, to support the entire family.
Why Play Therapy?
Our Play Therapists have been through additional extensive training and supervision to learn how to interpret the meaning of the play of children by observing how they express their play and non-verbal expressions in a safe and consistent environment.
While playing, children often reveal their thoughts and what is bothering them, as well as their unconscious worries, concerns and fears. Children work through their experiences by developing meaning, learning to manage stress and their behaviors in the context of play, while optimizing healthy development. In essence, toys become the child’s words, and provide a way to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way.
Play therapy is also useful for helping to strengthen bonds between children, their siblings and their parents, resolve traumatic events, and an effective way to process through strong emotions, such as anxiety (general, social, separation), depression, including self-harming behaviors and suicidal ideation, anger, grief, chronic illness, among many, many other presenting issues.
Play Therapy is not the same as play that you will watch your child engage in at home, at school or with their friends. We do not expect or encourage children to play in ways that other environments may desire or correct toward. Play Therapy is an intentional environment that encourages your child to be as authentic as possible, so that the root problem is revealed. This provides an optimal opportunity to guide children through learning new skills and healing from maladaptive patterns, whether it is emotional in nature or behavioral.
Our approach to Play Therapy is also inspired by Neuroscience, paying close attention to how the brain is functioning, and what the brain needs to heal and develop. As children integrate their play and understanding of themselves through the Play Therapy process, the brain develops and their world view begins to align with social emotional safety and competence. These are building blocks of development, and more evidence of how Play Therapy works!
For more information and research on Play Therapy, click here.
Who may benefit from Play Therapy?
Play Therapy is an effective approach for any child who has experienced any adverse event, attachment ruptures, struggles with trust or communicating needs or feelings, or has big or attention seeking behaviors that cause distress at home, school or with friends. Since Play Therapy focuses on play and not talk, Play Therapy is also a good option for children who are resistant, shy, selectively mute, or have any other neurodivergent or learning disability, as it provides a safe environment for all children to be themselves without judgment or expectation.
Benefits include social-emotional competency, problem solving ability, developing coping skills and increasing self-esteem and self-concept. Some modalities that might be use include various games and fun toys, sand tray and expressive art therapy. Play therapy is not just for children, it has been proven effective for teens and adults, as well!
What does a typical Play Therapy session look like?
Our Play Therapy rooms are full of toys and resources necessary to keep children interested, creative, engaged and healing. We carefully select the toys and supplies in each of our Play Therapy rooms to give children a choice of materials, and those that will provide an opportunity for each child to safely play out real life themes and promote creative expression of feelings and events. Some of our Play Therapy rooms are also equipped with equipment and supplies to support our Therapy Dogs and their handlers.
Our Play Therapy Approaches
Child Centered Play Therapy
Directive Play Therapy
Attachment Play Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy
Child-Parent Play Therapy
Sand Tray and Sand Play Therapy
What to expect in the Play Therapy Process
We value the parent-child relationship, the family-child relationship, and also the child-therapist relationship. As trained experts, we will structure the process and treatment goals alongside you and your child. In the initial session, your therapist will gather the information necessary to know what your child is struggling with, what your goals are as the parent/caregiver, and what the child wants out of their process.
The first four to six sessions are considered our assessment phase, and will be used to develop the therapeutic relationship and begin implementing the preliminary treatment interventions. Most likely, your therapist will approach the beginning stages of therapy from a Child-Centered approach. After this phase, your first parent consultation session will be scheduled to provide insight and understanding to what your child is experiencing, and what your child needs in the healing and development process. Parent consultation sessions are typically scheduled ongoing every four to six weeks, or when clinically needed to support the healing process for either the child, or the parent.
The number of sessions Play Therapy will require will vary depending on the intensity of the presenting issue, the support the child receives from the influencing systems and parent support, as well as how the child is developing through the healing process. We generally recommend to expect anywhere from 20-40 sessions, although it is possible that your child may see progress before this time. Your therapist will navigate this process with you during your parent consultation sessions. It is important that to maintain the momentum in healing that all recommendations from your therapist are followed, including supports between sessions and the frequency of sessions..
Preparing your child for Play Therapy
Your child may be timid when coming to therapy for their first session. It is helpful to help them understand that Play Therapy is their very special place with their Play Therapist to help them feel better, and to PLAY!
Ongoing, it is essential that your child knows that their Play Therapy experience is special, just for them, and their process is a safe place where there is no punishment for their feelings, or for who they are fundamentally. For more support helping your child with the Play Therapy process, please click here for more information on preparing your child.
Teresa Paterson Bartch, LPC, LCPC, RPT-S (not accepting new clients)
Counselors in Play Therapy Training
Counselors in Play Therapy Training
Lee’s Summit Location
Counselors in Play Therapy Training
St. Joseph Location
Kaily Lowrey, PLPC (in Play Therapy Training)