Play Therapy

The Association for Play Therapy defines this approach as,

"the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."



Play therapy is an evidence-based treatment approach for children ages 2 to 12. Play is the language through which children communicate. Play Therapists work with children individually, with their families, as well as group settings. Play therapists are specially trained to assess play and understand this communication in order to resolve childhood concerns. They also need additional training in the specific types of play therapy that are described below. Play therapy requires post-Masters training, experience, and supervision to be implemented effectively.

Under the umbrella of play therapy there are a variety of approaches that range from directive to non-directive. On the more directive side of the spectrum, the therapist is supporting the child through specific, play-based interventions tailored to the specific goals of therapy. Examples of this include cognitive-behavioural play therapy, narrative approaches, therapeutic storytelling, release play therapy, or Theraplay. The directive approaches vary in their degree of instruction from the therapist and are fun, engaging, and child-friendly

The other end of the spectrum is non-directive play therapy. This approach provides the opportunity for children to play out their feelings and experiences, just as an adult would communicate them verbally. Growth is achieved through the enhancement of self-understanding, the processing of experiences, and the development of the therapeutic relationship. For more detailed information on the non-directive approach see

Leslie’s methodology builds on the power of the therapeutic relationship and uses an integrative, prescriptive approach based on presenting concerns, age, developmental stage, and the treatment goals to create a tailored plan to best meet the needs of the child and family. Play-based, informal assessments are used to understand the needs of the individual child, as well as that of the family. Parents are involved in the process through development of treatment goals, learning and supporting children in regulation strategies, participating in interventions with the child, and attending parent feedback sessions to enhance understandings of the child and his or her parenting needs.