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  • Brad Ploof, MS, ALC

Most Effective Play Therapy Techniques

Here are the most effective techniques used in play therapy:


Child-centered play therapy - This allows the child to lead the session and explore their own interests and concerns through play. The therapist follows the child's lead and helps them process emotions. This creates a safe space for the child.

Sandplay therapy - The child creates scenes using miniature figures in a tray of sand. This allows them to express unconscious thoughts and emotions through symbolism. The therapist helps interpret the scenes.

Art therapy - Drawing, painting, and other art activities allow children to express themselves nonverbally. Art provides a creative outlet for working through issues.

Puppet play - Using puppets and role playing can help children safely act out emotional conflicts. The child projects their feelings onto the puppet.

Storytelling - Telling stories with dolls, toys, or through drawings allows children to communicate metaphorically. The therapist can gain insight into the child's inner world.

Play-based cognitive behavioral therapy - This uses play to teach coping skills and change unhelpful thought patterns. Games, role playing, and stories teach emotional regulation.

Therapeutic board games - Games with emotional skill building themes help children express feelings, build confidence, and learn social skills.


The key is allowing the child to lead, using play as the "language" of therapy. The therapist follows and interprets the child's play to help resolve emotional difficulties. Play provides a safe, developmentally appropriate medium for expression and healing.

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