Therapy for Children

Play therapy is the primary modality I use in my work with children. Play therapy uses children’s natural capacity to communicate their concerns through play, a language that is rich in metaphor and meaning. This work helps children feel accepted and understood, work through troubling feelings, and make sense of upsetting situations. I am a Registered Play Therapist (#T2169). Art therapy and sand tray modalities are also available to children in my practice, and many children find them helpful.

The kinds of concerns I often see among children in my practice include depression, anxiety, difficulty with regulating emotions, developmental transitions, identity concerns, worries around separation, loss and grief, trauma, and struggles with self-esteem or relationships, and personal growth. I welcome children age 3 and older of all gender identities and all ethnic backgrounds, and I have a particular interest in working with children whose parents grew up outside the United States.

When working with children, I also meet with their parents or other caregivers so that we can work together as a team to help your child. Parenting a child who is going through a hard time presents special challenges, and we can use our meetings as a place for me to support you in parenting. This includes problem solving together about ways to best promote your child’s healthy development. Meetings with parents or caregivers are separate from my meetings with your child. Another option for younger children (including those under 3) is parenting support without child visits.

My approach to play therapy is psychodynamically informed and relational. Psychodynamic perspectives involve exploring emotions and imagination; identifying patterns of experience; and attention to relationships, including the alliance between child and therapist. These processes occur in age-appropriate ways in psychodynamic play therapy. As a relational therapist, I see meaningful connection as an important part of psychological health, and I value children’s subjective experience.

Parents sometimes wonder whether play therapy works. Extensive research shows that play therapy is an effective way to resolve children’s emotional and behavioral problems. Research that combines the results of up to 94 studies of play therapy found that the average treated child is better off than three-quarters of untreated children. Psychodynamic play therapy, in particular, has very large beneficial effects for children.

An additional resource for children who are having difficulty is stories. Stories help children in many ways; for example, by providing new ways of structuring and thinking about difficult situations; helping children understand and resolve painful or confusing feelings; offering an extra source of empathy; suggesting problem-solving strategies; and encouraging hope. I wrote Healing Stories: Picture Books for the Big and Small Changes in a Child’s Life to help adults identify picture books that address their children’s concerns. Healing Stories summarizes over 500 picture books that can help support children who are facing new or challenging experiences. Over a subsequent eight-year period of weekly posts, I summarized additional helpful picture books at the Healing Stories blog.