Play Therapy at Kettle Moraine Counseling

A Room for Play Therapy with toys and comfy places to sit.

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy refers to a variety of treatment methods that use play to guide a child to positively develop in a targeted treatment area.  Play therapy is often used to help young children better communicate, understand and express feelings, modify behaviors, learn ways of relating to others, build problem-solving skills and more.  During play therapy, the therapist guides and assists the child in creating solutions to their own problems therefore building confidence and self-esteem while the problem is being addressed.

One thing to like about play therapy is it creates a psychological “sandbox” that feels safe to the child because the child works through problems using their imagination with nothing to fear.  The child can communicate and express feelings and thoughts in ways he or she feels safe and work out issues with the guidance of the trained therapist where no harm will come to the child.

Why Use Play Therapy?

To start off with, play is fun!  Play is part of happiness and well-being for people of all ages.  Wouldn’t you like to learn how to grow as an individual while playing?  Play therapy becomes a time a child looks forward to because they enjoy their time with the therapist having fun in play time while he or she grows during the therapy sessions.

Play also fully engages a child.  Using their cognitive skills, emotions, body movement, and everything else involved in play works synergistically to help children through therapy sessions.  We can also role-play or practice situations in a fun and safe way that a child needs to learn how to handle.  Changes in behavior often happen much more rapidly in immersive experiences that encompass the complete self.

Who Should Use Play Therapy

Almost everyone over 3 years of age can use play therapy!  Yes, even teenagers and adults can use play therapy, though generally play therapy is used for children of 3-13 years of age.  It is easier when a child can communicate back and forth with the therapist though some therapists are able to work with children even younger than 3 years of age and children with communication problems.

Play therapy is great to help children overcome any struggle.  This does not have to be a psychological defect.  Any struggle where the child or you as a parent would like to see growth can be helped through play therapy.  Why struggle for months with a child’s small anger or fear issue?  A trained play therapist can help the child experiment with alternative life skills and techniques to feel successful in life.

What happens in Play Therapy?

After an initial assessment, a trained play therapist will create a plan to help a child work through their greatest need.  The therapist will choose a type of play that will allow the child to learn, experiment, practice, and reinforce healthy behaviors. 

How many sessions it takes for the child to feel equipped to respond differently in the target growth area depends on the child and what the child is struggling with.  Many are resolved in short 30-50-minute weekly sessions over just a few months’ time.

Sometimes, members of the family are asked to help out during a play session.  At other times, the therapist will help families know what they can be working on at home together.  Since no child grows up in a vacuum, what happens at home can speed up or slow down the therapy process, so the therapist will ensure you have the information you need to improve the efficacy of the therapy sessions.

What are Some Common Issues Play Therapy is Used For?

Play Therapy can be used for just about any psychological or emotional growth area.  Play therapy has been successfully used in cases like the following:

  • academic and social developmental
  • anger management
  • anxiety disorders
  • attention deficit disorders
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • chronic illness
  • crisis and trauma
  • depression
  • death of a loved one
  • divorce or family dissolution
  • domestic violence
  • emotional abuse
  • grief and loss
  • hospitalization
  • learning disabilities
  • natural disasters
  • obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • oppositional defiance
  • physical and sexual abuse
  • physical disabilities
  • stressful experiences

How can I learn if Play Therapy is Right for My Child?

The best way to know if Play Therapy is right for your family is to come in for an evaluation where our friendly and experienced team can get the full picture of your concern.  We can then identify and discuss the best plan for your child and your family, whether it is play therapy or one of our many other options. 

Our goal is to utilize the best tools that will bring the most successful outcome for your child and family.  We look forward to hearing from you about a more successful tomorrow for your family.


Kettle Moraine Counseling is a mental health clinic with 6 locations: West Bend, Cedarburg, Germantown, Madison, Mayville and Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Click here for locations, maps and directions.