Illustration girl in boat

Play and expressive arts therapy for children: finding new ideas and solutions within familiar forms of creative expression

Play therapy instinctively resonates with children as play is their natural and preferred means to explore the world, express and process feelings, and to resolve problems. Play therapy for children provides necessary distance from the perceived problem, and allows children the freedom to engage their imagination in limitless ways! As a child play therapist, I will first create a safe space for your child, and then through our work together I can act as a container for the strong and complex feelings a child may release during the play therapy process. I will follow your child’s lead and also provide more structure and direction when needed, to assist in empowering a child to work toward the goals we have set for therapy.

Using a strength-based approach to play therapy, I help separate children from the problem so that the problem no longer feels like such an overwhelming and all encompassing part of who they are. A child can then become empowered to use inner strengths and resources to help “defeat the problem”, while finding new ideas and solutions through therapeutic play. In an imaginative world, we have the means and freedom to explore new endings, act out new choices, express new feelings, and reinforce new and preferred outcomes. Play therapy can strengthen a child’s sense of competency and positive self-concept, and a new story can be created!

Expressive Arts Therapy: creating a new story through therapeutic play

As a child therapist with a strong background in theatre, art, and music, I readily and spontaneously can connect to your child in playful and creative ways. A child’s story can be shared through words, art, play, and music.

Creating stories together through therapeutic play is important for many reasons. Sometimes a child might simply need a safe space to be heard and release feelings he or she perceives as unacceptable during play. Other times, the creative process can allow children to “try out” new roles, gain new feelings of self-efficacy in their abilities, and build a new sense of self-awareness and perspective. When a story is created or acted out successfully, it becomes easier to generalize the new feelings and ideas gained in play to everyday life. I will guide your child to practice and reinforce positive coping skills we learn in sessions throughout this process. In my specialized approach with children, I use expressive arts therapy, encompassing a variety of fun and creative means to support a child’s learning and exploration. In my work, art therapy and play therapy can go hand in hand. Expressive arts therapy utilizes:

  • Art: Using Pencils, Markers, Pastels, Collage, Clay, Crafts
  • Dramatic Play/Dress-up
  • Action Figures/Dolls & Stuffed Animals/Puppets
  • Music: Singing, Playing Instruments
  • Creative Writing
  • Sand Tray

The possibilities are endless!

Play therapy closet of items
Expressive arts therapy sandbox

Play and Expressive Arts Therapy FAQs

When I use play therapy interventions with your child, what I do is always intentional and supports the child's goals for therapy. The level of structure I provide and direction I give will be dependent upon these goals. In therapeutic play, we are always working to strengthen and reinforce positive coping skills and create an ongoing safe space to express and process feelings.

Yes. It is important for a child to know that any feelings and ideas can be expressed within the play therapy process. Holding feelings inside, conscious or unconscious, will often create emotional conflict and lead to other issues. Allowing a child a safe outlet for complex and challenging feelings can be therapeutic in itself. I am a supportive presence when feelings are difficult or when emotional distress is triggered. Once a child is able to share or release difficult feelings in play therapy, I will place safety above all, and will guide a child toward resolution and healing in a positive way.

I will use play therapy with children only if they are motivated to engage with me in the process. The advantage of using play therapy is that there are a multitude of ways to appeal to a child's interests and preferred means of communicating. A child might not be interested in using puppets, but love to create stories in the sand tray. If a child does not want to create a story through play, we can instead focus on art making, reading books, playing collaborative games, practicing new skills, or engaging any number of activities to work towards the therapeutic goals for our session.
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