Child Play Therapy


Play therapy is a developmentally effective strategy for young children because it employs the child’s natural way of communication. Children have a constrained capability to communicate their emotional needs verbally. In the process of development, children’s challenges are exacerbated by the failure of the adults to comprehend and respond to what young children are experiencing and trying to express (Crenshaw & Stewart, 2015). This communication gap is broadened by the adult’s inability to facilitate children-based means of communication. The play is a child’s platform for exploring relationships, defining encounters, expressing emotions, revealing wishes, and self-actualization. Thus, play therapists utilize child-appropriate interventions such as toys and other play devices to assist children to express their needs in a precise and understandable way. This assertion holds because the children’s speech development and comprehension lag behind their cognitive awareness, and thus, they express their sense of what is conspiring in their environment via play.

Play therapy is most desirable because the play therapist is compelled to join the child and share their experience. The play is used as a means for building rapport with children; assisting therapists to understand children’s relationships and express thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that they are unable to communicate verbally. However, this paper will use Crenshaw and Stewart’s (2015) work, Play Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide to Therapy, to show the effectiveness of the Adlerian Play Therapy and how a child releases hurting feelings coupled with examining the processes related to cognitive-behavioral play therapy. However, this paper seeks to offer an analysis to establish the significance of play as a treatment intervention for young children manifesting deviant behaviors.

The efficiency of the Adlerian Play Therapy

Adlerian play therapy has been viewed as an appropriate communication alternative for children who lack abstract reasoning and speech comprehension skills to express their thoughts and reactions. In the Adlerian play therapy, child therapists borrow the ideas of Alfred Adler to understand children and their world while utilizing art, toys, and gaming materials to link with the child. Play therapy entails an empathetic, reliable, and unconstrained collaboration instigated by the therapist and felt by the child. The child is issued with a variety of carefully chosen play items that trigger a range of feelings, thoughts, and experiences. The Adlerian therapy suggests that play therapy should be applied as a way of helping children express themselves, but not as a platform to compel them to develop speech.

Emotionally vital experiences can be presented more satisfactorily and effectively via the symbolic function of toys and storytelling. For instance, children can overcome their fears, guilt, and anxiety through play therapy. In the process, children create a sense of comfort and safety since play enables them to forget traumatic events and experiences. Similarly, through play therapy children can overcome a traumatic event or encounter and transit toward a promising resolution. Adler emphasized hugely on the effect of elementary childhood life and family background as major parameters in the child’s creation of their perception of their significance in relationships.

In a bid to explain how play therapy is effective, Adlerian develops three basic tenets. The principles are the interest to socialize, lifestyle, and the perception that all actions have a purpose. Children or rather, every individual is born with an inner potential and interest to create a bond with others, but they have to learn how to forge those links in an effective manner. In most cases, a child recommended seeking play therapy has a comprised level of social interest as opposed to other children. Thus, a play therapist should evaluate each child’s level of social interest. Adlerian play therapy attempts to show how therapists can cooperate with the child to boost his or her social urge by building the urge to link with others (Crenshaw & Stewart, 2015). Adlerian further shows the skills required to generate and sustain relationships in the child.

The second principle emphasizes that all behavior is generated by a purpose. Crenshaw and Stewart (2015) suggested various aspects that determine children’s misbehavior, aggression, revenge, and proving inadequacy. Based on the Adlerian view, the play therapist should learn to identify the child’s purpose by monitoring his/her behavior during play. A therapist should also observe the child’s response to correction. A therapist can use the Adlerian model to unearth the reasons behind the child’s misbehavior.

The other principle is that every individual’s lifestyle is unique, and everyone builds a creative model to life. According to Homeyer and Morrison (2008), children start to develop their lifestyle by the age of 10 years. Through observations and imitating others, children learn to build conclusions concerning self, others, and the environment around them. The child’s character naturally develops from his or her conceptions and the conclusions they generate from play and react as if these conceptions and conclusions are real. However, these conceptions and the conclusions regarding life and interactions are in some cases wrong.

How children release hurting feelings

Adlerian stressed the significance of understanding the child’s progress. According to Frick-Helms and Drewes (2010), to maximize desirable development, children need to acknowledge that they are cared for, loved, protected from all threats, and their contributions are recognized. Children develop means to answer their needs by allowing the expressions of feelings. For instance, children tend to manifest aggression and discomfort by crying to get the attention of the adults around them. In some instances, children encounter hurtful and traumatic experiences. These complex encounters that children undergo may get into their minds in an unusual way and develop a traumatic condition. These feelings often lead to emotional challenges that are observed in children.

In the Adlerian model, the therapist employs play to harness information regarding the child’s lifestyle. The therapist helps children who have faulty conceptions and conclusions about life. The therapist engages the child in play activities that help suggest the ways in which these conceptions are damaging the child’s capacity to sustain feelings and behavior that support self-actualization, meaningful relationships, and positive socialization. The Adlerian play therapy attempts to assist the child to reassess these faulty beliefs, make meaningful perceptions regarding self, others, and the environment around them. Essentially, this approach is necessary for releasing hurt since it helps children to develop revised strategies for settling challenges and forming relationships (Crenshaw & Stewart, 2015).

Children release stressful feelings by enabling creative thinking and the growth of alternative ideas. In an effort for children free from stressful experiences and improve their feelings, they seek meaning out of the hurtful experience and incorporate it into what is known to them regarding their surroundings. This approach is referred to as processing a circumstance, and it entails presenting thoughts and emotions and generating a new perspective concerning the experience. This process creates a better feeling. Play enables the child’s inner self-healing process to be triggered promoting the child’s wellbeing and psychological maturity (Frick-Helms & Drewes, 2010). Further, a therapist can employ play and storytelling to assist the child in learning to react positively and develop meaningful purpose. In-play therapy, children only need to use toys or listen to stories to clear stress.

Processes associated with cognitive-behavioral play therapy

There are four processes outlined in Adlerian play therapy. These stages include creating a just relationship with the child, evaluating the child’s behavior, assisting the child understand his or her life, and offering enlightenment to the child when needed through play. While children manifest decisive observation skills, they lack the competence to evaluate properly and offer meaning to events or relationships. In the course of the initial process, the play therapist creates an unbiased relationship with the child. During this stage, the child may register insignificant change unless s/he chooses to collaborate with the therapist. A partnership with the child’s parents is also necessary to promote parent-child relationship (Frick-Helms & Drewes, 2010).

Proponents of these models acknowledge that therapeutic abilities of play enhance the progress when dealing with children by building a link between the child and the therapist. The bond is based on shared fun with a goal to achieve certain objectives. The play is an effective medium for sharing therapists’ viewpoint of the issues affecting the child in a bid to assist the client to attain insight into his or her thoughts (Landreth, Ray, & Bratton, 2009). Creating rapport and achieving cooperation during the initial phase is very important since it determines the progress as well as the outcome of the play therapy. Proponents of the Adlerian theory stressed the importance of early childhood and the influence a child’s encounters have on later development. Further, Adlerian successfully shows how this relationship should emanate from the playhouse and later broadens through socialization to other settings such as school and the neighborhood.

The second phase entails an assessment of the child’s life by collecting information from the parents and the child. The therapist also considers the parents’ life with respect to parenting choices. In this stage, the therapist anticipates that the child will issue responses and manifest via play the different elements of his or her life. During the third stage, there are many expectations for change. The play therapist anticipates that the child will acquire clues into their life and commence advancing their understanding of self, others, and the world. In the course of the fourth stage, the therapist creates huge anticipations for change. The therapist use play to build the child’s level of interacting and comprehending experiences beyond the playroom (Crenshaw & Stewart, 2015).


Play therapy is grounded on developmental tenets. Therefore, play therapy offers developmentally effective ways of expression. Thus, knowledge for utilizing play for intervention is a vital tool for child therapists. Undoubtedly, the Adlerian play therapy manifests significant promise as an appropriate measure to influence positively child-challenging lifestyle. By applying four stages of therapy, the Adlerian model attempts to form a relationship with the child, evaluate his or her behavior, and help the child attain cues about his or her life.


Crenshaw, D., & Stewart, A. (2015). Play therapy: A comprehensive guide to theory. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Frick-Helms, S., & Drewes, A. (2010). Introduction to play therapy research theme issue. International Journal of Play Therapy, 19(1), 1-3.

Homeyer, L., & Morrison, M. (2008). Play therapy: Practice, issues, and trends. American Journal of Play, 1(2), 210-228.

Landreth, G., Ray, D., & Bratton, S. (2009). Play therapy in elementary schools. Psychology in the Schools, 46(3), 281-289.