Play Therapy

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Acebuche, Zandra Angelica L.

Bacongallo, Aries M.

Briones, Bernard L.

De Grano, Jenna Lois A.

Galac, Meliza S.

Gonzales, Michelle O.

Kalaw, Mary Joy L.

Lozano, Jenno S.

Tabunan, Lousanie M.

Romero, Czarina R.


Play therapy is generally employed with children aged 3 through 11 and provides a way for them to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided, self-healing process. As children’s experiences and knowledge are often communicated through play, it becomes an important vehicle for them to know and accept themselves and others. Play Therapy is the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial challenges and achieve optimal growth and development. A working definition might be a form of counseling or psychotherapy that therapeutically engages the power of play to communicate with and help people, especially children, to engender optimal integration and individuation. Play Therapy is often used as a tool of diagnosis. A play therapist observes a client playing with toys (play-houses, pets, dolls, etc.) to determine the cause of the disturbed behavior. The objects and patterns of play, as well as the willingness to interact with the therapist, can be used to understand the underlying rationale for behavior both inside and outside the session. According to the psychodynamic view, people (especially children) will engage in play behavior in order to work through their interior obfuscations and anxieties. In this way, play therapy can be used as a self-help mechanism, as long as children are allowed time for "free play" or "unstructured play." From a developmental point of view, play has been determined to be an essential component of healthy child development. Play has been directly linked to cognitive development.[citation needed] One approach to treatment is for play therapists use a type of systematic desensitization or relearning therapy to change disturbing behavior, either systematically or in less formal social settings. These processes are normally used with children, but are also applied with other pre-verbal, non-verbal, or verbally-impaired persons, such as slow-learners, or brain-injured or drug-affected persons. Mature adults usually need much "group permission" before indulging in the relaxed spontaneity of play therapy, so a very skilled group worker is needed to deal with such guarded individuals. Many mature adults find that "child's play" is so difficult and taboo, that most experienced group workers need specially tailored "play" strategies to reach them. Competent adult-group workers will use these play strategies to enable more unguarded spontaneity to develop in the non-childish student.[citation needed]


Play has been recognized as important since the time of Plato (429-347 B.C.) who reportedly observed, “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” In the eighteenth century Rousseau (1762/1930), in his book ‘Emile’ wrote about the importance of observing play as a vehicle to learn about and understand children. Friedrich Fröbel, in his book The Education of Man (1903), emphasized the importance of symbolism in play. He observed, “play is the highest development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul…. children’s play is not mere sport. It is full of meaning and import.” (Fröbel, 1903, p. 22) The first documented case, describing the therapeutic use of play, was in 1909 when Sigmund Freud published his work with “Little Hans.” Little Hans was a five-year-old child who was suffering from a simple phobia. Freud saw him once briefly and recommended that his father take note of Hans’ play to provide insights that might assist the child. The case of “Little Hans” was the first case...
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