Employee Reference: Play Therapy and Expressive Art Therapy Techniques


It is the responsibility of a therapist to ensure that a client’s needs are identified and addressed adequately and promptly throughout the therapy session. However, the described goal becomes excessively hard when providing services to children. Due to the need to prompt changes in behaviors and attitudes subtly while ensuring that the necessary habits are developed, play therapy should be considered the main tool due to its effective use of recurrent actions. In turn, art therapy will allow for emotional expression that will point a therapist to the possible issues that the client suffers, as well as the solutions that can be applied to resolve them.

A Description of the Method or Technique

In counseling, play therapy is essentially the technique that allows a therapist to identify key behavior and attitude issues in children while observing them playing. In turn, expressive art therapy suggests using art creation activities, such as painting, sculpting, dancing, and singing, as a method of helping a patient to give vent their feelings and express themselves emotionally.


The use of role-playing requires that a child and the therapist should assume specific roles and build a hypothetical dialogue. The proposed method should be used to evaluate problems in the child’s ability to communicate, as well as the possible issues that a child may find difficult to address in a more formal setting.

Creative Storytelling

Storytelling will help children to examine their relationships with others through the lens of an imaginary narrative. In turn, a therapist will notice problematic patterns and ideas that may surface during the development of the story told by the child.


Typically viewed as a projective type of therapy technique, finger painting should be used to identify problems in a child’s emotional state. Specifically, the colors used in the drawing, the thickness of lines and their intensity, as well as the motor functions displayed while painting should be analyzed. Significant deviations from the established standards should indicate a clear behavioral or mental health problem.

Squiggle Drawing

Implying that a child should draw a certain number of squiggles and color them, the specified therapy type is quite similar to the previous one. Namely, the shapes and choice of colors should serve as the descriptors of the current mental health state of a child (Dugan et al., 2019). For instance, a therapist should seek out the presence of very sharp edges in the recurring patterns. In addition, a therapist will need to encourage the child to interpret the drawing, thus developing the child’s imaginative, cognitive, and analytical skills.

Client Characteristics and Who Benefits from Each Play Therapy

The target audience can be described as young children (aged 3-5), who suffer from behavioral issues and, possibly, have mental health problems as a result of a specific trauma. The play therapy techniques provided above can be used to help children in specific cases. For instance, role-playing can be used to resolve a family conflict, where a child can assume the role of one of the adults, portraying the situation from the child’s perspective.

In turn, creative storytelling could be utilized to help young children to deal with conflicts. Namely, storytelling will allow a therapist to locate the source of a problem and develop further interventions to create a more positive family environment for a child. As a result, a child will be relieved of the burden of being caught in a crossfire of malfunctioning family relationships. Therefore, children aged 5-12 could be encouraged to participate in creative storytelling sessions.

Finger-painting is typically used as a therapy for children; however, due to its expressive power, finger-painting can also benefit adults with emotional issues. Moreover, the specified therapy type can be utilized as a form of occupational therapy given its focus on developing and training fine motor skills. Thus, there is no age limit on the use of finger-painting as a form of therapy since it helps to express emotional distress and define relationships with specific people as problematic when the client is unwilling or incapable of speaking about the problem directly, which may occur at any age.

Likewise, squiggle drawing can be the source of learning about the customers’ emotional distress, which is why the age of participants is not a restriction to be considered. Instead, squiggle drawing should be applied to address the needs of patients who have shown to be overly active or nervous or have shown any other signs of emotional instability. Thus, a therapist can use the squiggle drawing technique with patients of any age, although children (up to 12 years old) are the primary demographic for the specified tool.


The main goals of the therapeutic tools and techniques mentioned above are allowing a patient to express their feelings and observe the recurrent patterns in their drawings or communication. Thus, a therapist will be able to name the problem and diagnose a possible mental health issue, while also building an approach for helping the client to understand and accept their needs and desires. Furthermore, the use of the proposed therapeutic strategies, especially role-playing, will incentivize a patient to change their behavior.


The chance to observe a patient to infer the main problems in their psychoemotional development is the essential advantage of the described strategies. In addition, most of the outlined therapies can be used to help a patient to recognize a problem and work toward addressing it by changing their behaviors or the environment around them. Moreover, some of the strategies, such as role-playing, will help to identify the [problem without actually naming it since a client may find it difficult to talk about specific issues openly.

Main Concepts or Stages

There are several concepts to keep in mind when implementing the described techniques. In relation to role-playing, the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and the creation of patterns should be mentioned (Dugan et al., 2019). In relation to creative storytelling, narrative therapy as the means of describing specific issues without attaching oneself to them should be noted. Finally, squiggle drawing and finger-painting help to integrate crucial information both by the client’s body and their brain (Dugan et al., 2019).

Basic Skills and Strategies of the Therapist

In order to perform the specified tasks, a therapist will need creative skills for developing tasks and analytical skills for dissecting the results of the clients’ performance. Furthermore, the therapist will be able to isolate specific elements of a patient’s performance and approach the analysis from the sociocultural perspective of the patient. Thus, an accurate assessment of the underlying meanings that the client is trying to communicate will be possible.

Required Training and Supervision

In order to conduct the assessments mentioned above and deploy appropriate strategies, a therapist will need the training that will increase their emotional intelligence and emotional competence. Without the identified skills, a therapist will be unable to locate the source of the patient’s emotional distress and develop the strategy that will help the patient to overcome these issues (Dugan et al., 2019). In addition, profound knowledge of the crucial principles of CBT and the related theoretical frameworks will be needed to connect theory and practice and produce an accurate assessment of the patient.

Media Used

In the course of implementing each of the techniques listed above, a therapist will need a rather small range of resources. Since role-playing and creative storytelling do not require any additional materials, supplementary materials will be needed only for art therapy techniques. These materials will include paper, as well as pencils, markers, and other art tools for drawing on the paper. Thus, the therapist will see the full range of emotional responses that the client produces while participating in a therapy session.


Dugan, E. M., Vaughn, K., & Camelford, K. (2019). Developing and sustaining play therapy clinics. IGI Global.

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