What is Play Therapy?

In play therapy, toys are children’s words and play is their language.

If you’re visiting this page, you might be a little confused about how play and therapy go together! That’s perfectly ok and normal!

It’s a common misconception that toys are used in therapy only to introduce and build a relationship with the therapist. However, in play therapy, toys are the words and play is the language.

Play IS the therapy.

“But how could that be?” you ask. Let’s talk about the brain for a minute. Our most complex thinking and mental processing happens in a part of the brain called the cerebral cortex. This is where our abstract thought and language is assembled by using all of the sensory information in the environment around us. Children have less developed cerebral cortical areas, because, well… they haven’t been around as long as adults. Therefore, it’s much harder for them to process their experiences through talking. In a play therapy setting, children have an opportunity to experience, develop, and practice solutions to their own problems through PLAY within the safety of a carefully cultivated therapeutic relationship with a trained mental health clinician.

Play therapy can be used to treat or used as a secondary treatment for:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Depression
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity
  • Autism spectrum
  • Oppositional defiant and conduct disorders
  • Anger management
  • Crisis and trauma
  • Grief and loss
  • Divorce and family dissolution
  • Academic and social developmental
  • Physical and learning disabilities

Play therapy helps children:

  • Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
  • Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
  • Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.
  • Learn to experience and express emotion.
  • Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.
  • Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.

While play therapy is great for children, it can be implemented with teenagers and adults, too. The application of the technique is different but the theoretical principles are the same. Everyone has more fun when they play and accessing the creative, right side of your brain engages you in new ways therapeutically.

See below for more information on play therapy.



Some information on this page was adapted from the APT webpage. For more information, please visit the Association for Play Therapy’s (APT) webpage at www.a4pt.org

Contact Us

Gulf Coast Play Therapy & Family Services, LLC
370 Courthouse Rd, Ste 102
Gulfport, MS 39507

1508 Government St.
Ocean Springs, MS 39564