August Play Therapy Wrap-Up

-Early in the month, NPR had a very interesting piece that looks at the role of play in child development. Many believe that our current harried lifestyles are not allowing for sufficient play time, in what is being called a “national play crisis.” This story was the second in a weeklong “Playing to Learn” series.

-I’ve only read the abstract, but this seems like a really interesting article on Non-Directive Play Therapy.

-A new therapy room in Binghamton, NY was dedicated to a longtime sexual abuse counselor who recently passed away.

-LEGO play can be very beneficial to children with Autism. In this 5-minute lightning talk, Hannah Coles outlines how LEGO therapy works, and how it can improve language and communication.

-This video serves as a good introduction to play therapy for parents, and also touches on some concepts and guidelines that might be of interest to practitioners:

-A recent study on the effectiveness of sandplay therapy came to some very interesting conclusions about the measures of success. In short: lack of marked improvement does not suggest ineffectiveness.

-Like it or not, Summer is just about over. But with colder temperatures come new workshops and learning opportunities! The Colorado Sandplay Therapy Association is offering some great ones to its members including a free member training in consultation and didactic learning; Introduction to Sandplay; and, in early 2015, “Seeing with Real Eyes: Vulnerability and Courage in Sandplay and Play Therapy Stories”. Check out a full list of events here.

-Robin Williams’ suicide earlier this month was a great shock to all of us. It was hard to know how to process and express our grief over losing such an icon in such an upsetting way. Because suicide can be a contagious phenomenon, it is a very tricky subject to discuss, and the conversation can become particularly dangerous when it takes place on social media. This video and article looks at how to discuss suicide without endangering the severely depressed among us.

-A foundation in Pennsylvania is trying to move the play therapy room outside. As this article reports, the Fulton County Medical Center Foundation is campaigning to build a playground outside designed specifically for play therapy. It would be built to meet the needs of children of all ages, and those in need of a range of play therapy modalities including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language, and behavioral therapy.

-Want a free lecture on Individual Play Therapy? YouTube provides…

-A professor in New Mexico is using sand play as a part of an “embodied restorying process” to help veterans and their families dealing with the consequences of combat.

-Sand tray therapy without sand? This paper makes the case for a virtual sandtray.

-I really enjoyed these three techniques for improving self confidence from PsychCentral. It’s just one in a series of blog posts by child therapist Heather Gilmore, LLMSW.

Here’s a great response to the unexpected results of a study on pretend play.

Have a super September!

July Play Therapy Wrap-Up (We’re Back!)

After a brief absence and a change of venue, your favorite play therapy blog is back at a new and improved location. Here are a few things that we’ve come across over the past couple of months…

-For those of you who have never seen the classic 1972 documentary film Sandplay with Dora M. Kalff, Dr. Eric Green has posted the film in its entirety.

-If you’re not already member of APT, join now! Here are a couple of brochures explaining the organization and the benefits of getting involved. The APT also recently posted a Training Directory of approved providers and has launched a Career Center for job seekers and employers.

-CreativeCounseling101 posts lots of great sand tray therapy ideas including this one for building your own bridge. (You can also purchase bridges for sand tray use at!)

-The Minnesota Sandplay Therapy Group just put out a new edition of their newsletter Sandspiel (great name!). It’s full of great articles and updates, including news about the upcoming conference they’re calling “Exploring Relationships in Sandplay on the Mighty Mississippi”.

-Can yoga be considered a form of play? A new book by Louise Gold suggests that the two can at least be used in tandem to help children with PDD. There’s a nice review of the book at PsychCentral.

-This article does a great job of summing up play therapy with its title alone.

-A very helpful short video from a New York play therapist about the value and use of play therapy.

-I came across this research paper from 1976 on non-directive play therapy. Very interesting to see what’s still relevant today, as well as how the practice has evolved.

-As box office earnings suggest: people love superheroes…children especially. Kids frequently incorporate superheroes into their play, as the idea of having superhuman powers provides a great spark to the imagination. An upcoming workshop in Sacramento will look into the history of the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonderwoman) and what children can reveal through there interactions with them in play.

-Certified Sandplay Therapist and Teacher Barbara Turner, PhD will be traveling the globe over the next year leading training courses.

-For the dog-lovers out there, here’s a news story about therapy dogs being used to help alleviate the physical and emotional stress children can experience in a courthouse setting.

-The results of a recent study suggest that poor treatment of children can affect the way their gene’s are activated.

-August’s Sand Tray Miniature of the Month is not just one figure, but our entire selection of strong female figures. While boys are known for their fondness for digging around in the dirt and sand, any great sand tray collection should include just as many expressive tools for girls. The selection at ChildTherapyToys includes lots of strong female characters such as Athena, Joan of Arc, and, of course, Wonder Woman!

Have an awesome August everyone!




Contribute to our blog and get free stuff!

We recently received some great articles from fellow practitioners which you can read below. I’d like to remind our readers that contributing to our blog isn’t just an opportunity to share your hard work with others, it’s also a way to get free stuff at! In fact, the authors of the below articles each earned a $25 gift certificate!

This blog was created as a place for practitioners, or anyone interested in play therapy, to come for news and information relevant to this unique therapeutic method. I also envisioned it as providing a forum for play therapists to share their knowledge, ideas, and experiences.

Send us an idea or intervention that you have developed or used in the play room, and if we publish it to the blog, we’ll send you a $25 gift certificate for

All entries are only accepted by email. Send to

March Play Therapy Wrap-Up

-In this interview a seasoned sandplay therapist talks about how she became interested in sandplay and provides some great answers to great questions, including those relating to the future of the practice. A must-read for any sandplay practitioner.

-On our Play Therapy articles and resources site we keep a running list of notable upcoming workshops and learning opportunities, but most of them tend to be those taking place in U.S. and Canada. Of course there are many great groups and institutions teaching the value of play therapy across the globe, including the PsychMatters Family Therapy Centre in New Zealand, which boasts a full calendar of events.

-Liana Lowenstein (who submitted some excellent intervention ideas earlier this month) has posted two new articles to her website. The first consists of some very useful tips for treating children of divorce (more articles on that subject here). The second, written by Lynn Kenney, Psy D, is about the connection between parents and their children and how to “Stay in the Play.”

-And speaking of parenting, Ms. Lowenstein also posted this excellent parenting technique created by Pam Dyson, the founder and director of the St. Louis Center for Play Therapy.

-And speaking of Pam Dyson…where does she get all of her great ideas? In this video she introduces the “Worry Web”, a technique designed to help children with stress and anxiety, a major and often-overlooked issue.

-There are so many great therapy techniques to use in the initial stages of play therapy, when the main goal is to make the child comfortable and encourage expression, but what of the later stages of play therapy? This video presents an intervention that can be used to complete a successful journey through play therapy.

-I often come across these news stories about the basics of play therapy, but I particularly appreciated the way this one summarized the treatment and it’s range of application.

-Child Therapy Toys offers an enormous array of sand tray miniatures–so many that the selection can be hard to sift through! This is why we’re going to begin using this monthly wrap-up to select a “Miniature of the Month”–an essential tool of expression to be used in or outside the sandtray that you might have overlooked. March’s “Miniature of the Month” is this pair of horrified and scared people, a great expressive device for children to symbolize trauma and grief:








Have a spring-tastic April!

Special offer for graduate students from Child Therapy Toys!

Putting yourself through graduate school is increasingly expensive and many of us recall the days of living on pasta and hot dogs just to try to stay above water. We at do at least and that’s why we’re offering a 15% discount for graduate students. Just drop us a line at Be sure to include a student ID and a picture ID to match and we’ll sign you up!


Play Therapy: The Universal Language of Very Young Children

Here’s another great article from Alessandra Longo, LMSW, MA. For this submission, a $100 gift certificate to will be given to a public agency or program of Alessandra’s choice.

Kevin was an energetic toddler; he entered the classroom not really knowing where he was in space. I remember him flinging himself hard onto the floor, into objects, running laps around the classroom and not responding to his name. Toddlers are normally in their own egocentric space but we all agreed something was different about this child. He had an otherworldly quality that made it seem as though he was not interested in establishing any relationships with teachers or peers. I was faced with the challenge of developing a therapeutic relationship with a child within a preschool setting.

The agency where I work assists toddlers through the separation process from parents and caretakers. This child did not have an exceptionally hard time leaving his mother. Few children at this age play with peers but most seek out interaction with adults in the classroom. My client was not really noticing anyone. He had a very difficult time focusing on anything and a lot of the day was spent trying to get him to stop running in circles or keeping him out of the closet. It was evident that Kevin needed extra attention and I became invested in responding to his specific needs. As the year went on we developed a very strong bond fraught with highs and lows.

Kevin is 3 years old. He is bilingual and in the beginning of the year favored Japanese over English. Early in our relationship he would emphatically tell me things in a stream of Japanese, especially when he was angry. He showed clear frustration when I did not understand. There came a point when he became extremely agitated with the difficulty of communicating through language and he began to hit. This would mainly happen when he would get hurt or drop something. These were all situations where he did not feel a sense of control. I was his safest object in the classroom and therefore also experienced the rage. If someone else reprimanded him he would be sure to find me somewhere in the classroom and hit me. I tried to stay calm and consistent in my response to physical aggression and as his English developed further his hitting disappeared. All of these issues of control and attachment naturally pushed my thinking into the realm of psychodynamics with this child.

My client began potty training midyear. During this time his desire for control really became magnified. In the playroom next to the classroom we had a basket of plastic balls that the children liked to throw around. One day my client suddenly decided he hated the playroom and would become hysterical each time we entered. He would desperately grab his shoes and try to put them on so he could leave. When I asked him what was wrong he initially wouldn’t say but finally identified the problem as the balls getting stuck under the play structure. He wanted them in the basket and put away in an orderly fashion. The mess was unmanageable. During this time he also had an obsession with making sure the closet door was closed, the cabinets were all shut with locks fastened and no puzzle pieces were missing.

This desperate seeking of order at school seemed like a direct reflection of his inner conflicts. He was experiencing incomplete control of his bowels and this anxiety appeared to be manifesting itself in daily activities. Blum and Blum (1990) discuss the turmoil of the toddler during this phase of establishing autonomy and separateness in the world. I felt this article applied to Kevin because he had a dawning awareness of being his own person but also realized that person still needed a lot of help from adults tofunction in the world. The realization of not having complete control over one’s self can be highly frustrating and it did not surprise me that this manifested in the classroom. His mother told me he came home and said, “I went pee-pee on the potty with Alessandra.” This did not actually happen. It was a fantasy where he seemed to be working through his bowel control issues. It also informed me that he considered me a safe person to help him through this anxiety, even if it was just in fantasy. He also loved looking at the toilets, especially if another child was using it. Whenever I would attempt to actually take him to the bathroom he would insist that he didn’t have to go.

Clearly, Kevin and I did not sit down and talk about goals in such blunt language. In essence he was a “mandated” client and was going to stay in the classroom all year even if he didn’t want to. A goal that was beneficial to us both was to establish a secure attachment. His mother would not be in the room so I hoped for him to come to trust me. A hopeful side effect of this would be his ability to explore the classroom freely. Another big goal was to help him through his anxiety in the playroom. The agency and I were largely responsible for setting these goals. Kevin made his opinion clear in the way only a toddler can. De Cooke and Brownell (1995) discuss young children’s tendency to seek out help when they desire to “master” a challenge. The cues I got from Kevin were not always verbal. When he was at the pinnacle of anxiety and unable to verbalize what he wanted he was able to take me by the hand and point out the troubling situation. This is how I discovered the plastic balls getting stuck to be the cause of his distress. He also had a strong opinion about me being his attachment object, which I will discuss further.

His anxiety lessened considerably in the playroom as he progressed in potty training. Even though his joy was rekindled and the balls no longer frustrated him he would still tell me he was “very sick” and that he “hated the playground” before we entered the playroom. He would then either crawl into my lap or motion for me to pick him up. I don’t think it was coincidental that he would seek physical contact whenever this topic was broached. The stress of the incident was clearly imprinted in his mind. I think it may have been a comfort to verbally work through the residual feelings in close proximity to me. I would usually say to him, “You feel sick? What hurts? What part of you is sick?” or some variation on the theme. At first he would only say, “I don’t know” or “I am not sure.” One day his answered changed. He shook his head adamantly and insisted, “I am very very sick…Alessandra, when I am sleeping I miss you!” A few weeks later it hit me that this was not just a very sweet thing to say. I was working with a child desperately seeking order in his newly, somewhat, independent life. In his statement I heard echoes of the original themes that caused such angst. Where does the poop go? Where do the balls go? Where does Alessandra go? Why does she belong at school but not at my house? Later on the answer evolved into, “I miss you. I do not like sleeping.” Sleep is another common power struggle for toddlers. It felt like a logical addition to the equation. He seemed to be saying, “I do not get to control when I see you. I do not get to control when I sleep or what I think about when I am sleeping.” It appeared as though verbalization and exploration of categorizing helped him resolve some inner conflict and therefore meet our shared goals.

Play therapy was a wonderful aid in establishing a secure attachment and client directed relationship. I was also able to explore his positive transference towards me. I found his anxiety was lessened through working on ego functions, specifically reality testing and affect regulation. If I were working with adults in the context of psychodynamics then the method would be talk therapy. Through talk, adults establish rapport with therapists. Children do the same thing but in their language, which is, play. When Kevin became highly anxious it was a struggle not to absorb that anxiety. I would find myself getting lost in his feelings and wanting to “make it better”. This did not work and I eventually figured out that giving him space to experience his feelings (whatever they were) and then exploring his ego functioning afterwards was far more effective.

As mentioned before, this child was challenging to connect with in the beginning. He seemed to be functioning on another plane. Axline (1974) is adamant about letting the child lead the therapist into his world and not the other way around. If the therapist is too directive and makes various demands on the child, the relationship may be compromised. In the beginning of our relationship I would make too many demands on him. I insisted he sit for art projects or participate in circle time. It was not working and didn’t feel right. At this point rapport was nonexistent. I had him pegged as the stubborn, resistant one but in reality I was the one not listening. He didn’t like art but he loved trains. His favorite activity was building train tracks on the floor and running the wooden cars along the tops of the bookshelves so they were at eye level. Once I truly accepted that this was where my client was and he was doing exactly what he needed to be doing our relationship blossomed. Instead of resisting him I joined him and began to build train tracks alongside him, even if everyone else was at art. If he wanted to dance at circle time I complimented his dance moves and didn’t pull him onto the carpet. Slowly, he began to notice me.

Attachment is an extremely important part of a toddler’s life. From what I observed Kevin’s mother was extremely attentive to his needs and was able to share experiences with him. Holmes (1993) wrote a comprehensive article illustrating how a healthy therapeutic relationship shares many of the same elements of attachment theory. When I played with Kevin I tried to be mindful of his needs, as I had seen his mother doing. She set clear boundaries with him and allowed him to explore the world while remaining a comforting presence to return to. Through play my relationship with Kevin began to mirror the one he had with his mother. Over time I was able to recognize when he needed independence (getting puzzles from the shelf, climbing the play structure, and self soothing when he got physically hurt). Then there were other times when he needed my support (holding my hand in the hall, working through his quest for order and identifying unknown objects in the classroom). Once the boundaries of our relationship were clear and my behavior became predictable he was able to use me as a tool to explore the classroom more fully.

Bowlby (1988) noticed that children have an internal sense of who to go to for comfort. When the main attachment figure leaves the room a child will seek out another person who they believe will offer comfort. Bowlby’s theory is in keeping with the previous paragraph. I received much of Kevin’s mother transference since I was his second choice and replacement in the classroom. Children at this age are appropriately egocentric. It is very difficult for toddlers to understand that people do not all have the same needs and wants at the same time. Lyons-Ruth (1999) mentions the phrase “decoding another’s subjective reality” (p. 583). This refers to parent’s initial attempts to figuring out what their infant is trying to tell them through nonverbal communications. When an infant cries there is no definite way to know exactly what they are saying. Parents are constantly trying out solutions that will fit. Lyons-Ruth (1999) believes this trial and error and acknowledgement of not being able to read the child’s mind is an integral part of “coherent communication” (p. 583). Kevin exhibited a behavior that I assumed stemmed from these types of early developmental interactions with his mother that went hand in hand with the fact that he was not fully individuated from her. On multiple occasions Kevin would say things such as, “Alessandra, you don’t like this book at all” or “Alessandria doesn’t like John” (another child in the class). These types of statements embody a toddler’s egocentrism or inability to see others as independent thinkers. It also reminded me of what Lyons-Ruth discussed because before a child is verbal parents are constantly trying to guess at the child’s needs. The chance of guessing right is probably much higher if the parent is more attuned to the child. This may appear as a sort of omniscience to the toddler. If parents seem to know what is going on in a child’s head it may appear to offer support of all thoughts being the same. Also, children this young are just realizing the fact that they do not share the same body or mind as mother. Since he had mother transference feelings towards me it makes sense that it would be extremely difficult to tell where his thoughts ended and mine began. Whenever he made these statements I would acknowledge the fact that he was thinking about me but would also inform him of my true opinion. I would also tell him things like “people like different things” or “you may not like the book but I do.” Through our attachment bond I was able to test and expand his reality in small ways as well.

When Kevin first got upset about the balls all over the playroom I would try to soothe him by giving him a hug or other physical contact. This made him more agitated and he would lash out. I was at a loss of what to do. This incident repeated itself a few times. Eventually I remembered a case illustrated by Lenore Terr (2008). A child went into a hysterical tantrum in Terr’s office and nothing Terr could say or do would ease the child. Eventually, she stopped trying to talk the child down and went about her office tasks. Terr’s calm tolerance of her client’s emotions sent a message of unconditional acceptance. The next time Kevin melted into hysterics I sat a moderate distance away and told him I would be there if he needed my help and said nothing else. Ultimately, he tired himself out. He walked over to me and asked to go look at cars out the window in the classroom next door. I agreed. While we looked out the window he said, “Mommy is in an airplane, Mommy is in a car, Mommy is at the store.” Since he couldn’t see Mommy anymore it was a mysterious to where she had gone (Piaget 1954). In addition to unstable object permanence this statement came juxtaposed to the ball upset. It felt like just one more thing Kevin could not control. Since he had calmed down I figured it would be a safe time to question his reality a little further. I asked, “Do airplanes fly in the sky?” He nodded. “Is Mommy in the sky?” He thought for a minute and then said, “No! Mommy is not in the sky.” I reassured him that mommies always come back and didn’t his mommy always pick him up from school? He visibly relaxed after processing the familiar fact that Mommy did indeed pick him up everyday. It’s possible he had troublesome memories of his mother going on an airplane trip in his very brief past but I didn’t think it was the time to probe that deeply. I got the sense that the residual feelings from his intense upset caused his reality to become very chaotic and unmanageable for a brief amount of time. I wanted to help him see what was really happening in the outside world and not let the stress of his internal world make him doubt that.

Kevin displayed a desire for order and knowing things were in their proper place. In the classroom he would check the latches on the cupboards and close the closet doors before entering the playroom. These ceremonies paid homage to the order he so desperately sought. The world is a big place and small children cannot control all aspects so they construct rituals that are meaningful (and controllable) in order to become centered amidst the chaos (Feygin, Swain & Leckman 2006). Sometimes these rituals are not enough to ease the stress loss of control brings on. When the stress becomes too much children have an incredibly hard time regulating their affect. Their emotions get away from them. An incident that followed was similar to the previous scenario where Kevin struggled with object permanence and distorted reality. After we had looked at cars together I went over to drink from my water bottle. Kevin noticed and asked, “What are you eating, Alessandra?” We both noticed the mistake and laughed. Before this he was pretty calm, definitely not happy but managing. I was delighted to see him laugh and seized the moment to engage in some verbal world play. Johnson and Mervis (1997) explored humor development in children under 3 and would identify this type of verbal humor as “incongruent label jokes” (p. 190). Here children call things the wrong name but know what it is really called. I am unsure if Kevin labeled my drinking as eating on purpose or not but it then developed into a game that allowed for a lot of shared joy. I answered with, “Kevin! I am not eating! I am drinking…Why are you sleeping??” He laughed wholeheartedly and then said, “Alessandra! I am not sleeping! I am standing!” We went back and forth for a bit and when I assumed he was truly happy I took a risk and said, “Kevin, why are you crying?” I was afraid this would set him off since he had been in hysterics not too long ago. It happily had the opposite effect. He laughed again and said, “Alessandra! I am not crying. I am laughing!” Through play and humor his affect became regulated. The fact that he picked up the game so quickly and enthusiastically made me hopeful that he could carry the memory with him next time he was upset. This is clearly not something that happens overnight but if I could provide tools to help regulate his emotions, even after a huge upset, perhaps the lows would not be so overwhelming and scary. There is something comforting about knowing a way out of emotional turmoil.

The language barrier was an obstacle in the beginning of the year when Kevin would express himself only in Japanese. This was the time he began to hit out of frustration. As the year went on he began to master both languages. At times he will say things in Japanese to me. This has turned into a running joke as well. When he does this I will say jokingly, “Kevin, I still don’t speak Japanese!” Then I will throw my hands up in mock desperation, which he finds funny. This enables us to share a laugh. But I believe that it might also be a way of Kevin working through his original stress of not being able to communicate with me. Only now that he has the mastery of two languages can he make a joke out of it. It reminds me of children who master potty training and then enjoy potty humor. A previously stressful situation suddenly turns hilarious once conquered.

Working with this child gifted me many takeaways for future work. We were capable of establishing a strong therapeutic bond within the classroom setting. Once I was able to put aside my own anxieties and expectations, Kevin was free to truly ask for what he needed to flourish. Play became our shared language and allowed me to join in on the inner workings of his developmental challenges. It was gratifying to see how much progress Kevin was able to make once he began directing the play and I began following his lead. Arriving at this place of acceptance permitted me to wholeheartedly experience shared joy with my client.


Axline, V. M. (1974). Play therapy. New York, NY: Ballantine Books .

Blum, H. & Blum, E. (1990). The development of autonomy and superego precursors.

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 71, 585-595.

Bowlby, J . (1988). A secure base: parent-child development and healthy human development. Great Britain : Routledge.

De Cooke, P.A., & Brownell, C.A. (1995). Young children’s help-seeking in mastery-oriented contexts. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly: Journal of Developmental Psychology. 41(2), 229-246.

Feygin, D.L., Swain, J.E., & Leckman, J.F. (2006). The normalcy of neurosis: Evolutionary origins of obsessive- compulsive disorder and related behaviors. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 30, 854–864.

Holmes, J. (1993). Attachment theory: A biological basis for psychotherapy? British Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 430-438.

Johnson, K. E., & Mervis, C. B. (1997). First steps in the emergence of verbal humor: A case study. Infant Behavior and Development. 20(2), 187-196.

Lyons-Ruth, K. (1999). The two-person unconscious: Intersubjective dialogue, enactive relational representation, and the emergence of new forms of relational organization. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 19, 576-61.

Piaget, J . (1954). The construction of reality in the child. Great Britain: Basic Books Inc.

Terr, L. (2008). Magical moments of change: How psychotherapy turns kids around. New York, NY: W.W Norton and Company, Inc.

Welcome to the Autism Store!

Play therapy’s greatest virtue is perhaps in its breadth of application. The process of allowing children (and adults!) to express themselves through the language of play can be tremendously useful in a variety of situations. It can be used to teach discipline and good behavior, lift spirits and mend the emotional wounds caused by trauma or grief, and help a patient work through anxiety and depression. Play therapy’s ability to foster expression and improve social and emotional competence is particularly beneficial to children with autism. Many therapists use play-based treatments for Autism and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders and research suggests a high level of success.

Keeping in mind that every specific situation requires it’s own very specific tools, has created The Autism Store–a one-stop shop with the most valuable and fun tools available for play therapy with autistic children. The store boasts a huge variety of books and games, sensory toys, creative materials, and more, all designed to help a child connect and engage through the power of play. The products offered have been expertly curated and are available at affordable prices. Stop by and discover what your therapy room might be missing!   

January Play Therapy Wrap-Up

January was a somewhat slow month for play therapy news, but here are a few choice links you might have missed…

-In November I came across an article about the use of expression therapies such as sandplay in Jin Zhong Prison, a Chinese correctional facility for inmates with infectious diseases. It seems the popularity of the practice is spreading, as this article reports that sandplay is also being used with offenders in a community correction center in Ma’anshan city. As a sandplay practitioner, I am very excited to see this very useful intervention used in such an environment.

-If you’re looking for a good learning opportunity without leaving home, check out Play, Play Therapy, and Games: Engage Children in Therapy, a webcast on February 5 at 2pm EST. I can personally attest to the quality of this one . If you aren’t available for the livecast, you can purchase it directly from the PESI website on CD or DVD.

-The APT is also offering a couple of great online courses: ‘The ABCs of Play Therapy’ and ‘Attachment Training’. Check out the very thorough reviews!

This article takes a look at untreated mental illness in teens. It posits that while many infectious illnesses are routinely checked, there is not enough screening for mental health and emotional problems, which can be just as destructive to the individual as well as others, as increasing instances of school violence would evidence. The article takes a look at efforts to screen for mental health across the country, but it seems clear that a more universal system needs to be put in place and strictly enforced. A very interesting read…what do you think?

-Congratulations to Capella University’s Center for the Study of Play Therapy for its re-designation as an Approved Center of Play Therapy Education by the APT through 2017.

Board games provide a great way to engage clients in therapy. There are many ways to take classic games such as Sorry and Candyland and give them a play therapy twist. Here’s a great article on how to incorporate board games into family therapy.  

-I’ve posted this video in the past (it and may other vids can be found in our videos section at, but it’s really a great introduction to play therapy and the APT.

-There are many helpful interventions to help children with autism express themselves and improve their social and emotional competence. That’s why has created the Autism Store, your one-stop shop for a large variety of the most valuable tools available.

-Virgina Satir became a pioneer of family therapy in the 1970s and 80s and her impact is still felt today. This video (as well as many others available on YouTube) show the master therapist at work.

-We love this innovative technique adapted for play therapy by Pam Dyson from the St. Louis Center for Play Therapy Training. Bombs away!

-For those of you who haven’t been following the APT’s History Speaks series, this interview with Violet Oaklander is a great place to start.

-A very enlightening foster parent’s perspective on her daughter’s first play therapy session.

-Some very interesting and positive results were seen in a San Antonio middle school that implemented a ‘Restorative Disciple Program’ in lieu of a zero-tolerance policy. Hopefully this is the beginning of some big changes in the way our schools discipline our children

December Play Therapy Wrap-Up

-This article, featured in Liana Lowenstein’s December newsletter, looks at what factors contribute to resiliency in children and the potential for positive growth after exposure to a traumatic life experience.

-Also featured in Ms. Lowenstein’s newsletter is an article that addresses a child’s fear of sleeping alone, a very common problem and a tough one to handle for parents. A child wanting to sleep with their parents every once in a while is quite normal, but at what point does it become an issue? The author provides guidance in identifying the problem and presents some very interesting solutions.

Here’s a new creative intervention technique from Ms. Lowenstein’s website. And, in case you didn’t catch my post from earlier this month, be sure to tune in to her YouTube channel, which has lots of great intervention ideas for therapists. Speaking of great YouTube channels, the UK Society for Play and Creative Arts Therapies has one that’s well worth your time.

-You’re never too old to benefit from play. I really enjoyed this article on play therapy with couples. Play can be a great way to diffuse stress and bring much-needed joy back into a relationship.

-A play therapist in South Carolina incorporates her corgi Bella into her play therapy sessions. “She’s a great listener, as you can tell by the size of her ears.”

-This video serves as a good primer for expressive technique in play therapy.

-Here are two other great play therapy videos I found this month: a therapist explains a new kind of “natural” play therapy and a master’s student looks at play therapy for children who have a sibling with autism spectrum disorder.

-I posted an entry about this earlier this month, but here’s an excellent list of must-have miniatures for any sand tray. (All available at!)

-It’s the season of giving, and this is a great cause to give to. You can put forth $25 to buy a play therapy kit for rescued child soldiers in Uganda.

-We added quite a few events to our list of upcoming workshops. Lots of exciting things happening in 2014! Also, the APT’s E-Learning Center is a great way to check out past workshops from home.  

-Another quality issue of Play Therapy magazine went out last month. If you missed it, check out the digital version here.

-Children with Asperger’s Syndrome have to deal with a lot of frustration, and they can’t help but reach a boiling point now and then. Calming these children can be complicated, but here’s 50 very helpful tips for parents.

-Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (or PCIT) got some national mainstream exposure this month via this article in the Washington Post. It takes a very thorough look at PCIT and hopefully will provide help for parents struggling to control their child.

-Speaking of PCIT, earlier this year the Child Welfare Information Gateway released this very enlightening report on PCIT with at-risk families.

-As play therapists we think of sandtray therapy as a way to help people express themselves; however, sand play can be helpful in many ways, including helping children with learning disabilities.

-Here’s a playful strategy to explore family relationships.

Happy New Year, play therapists! Have an incredible January and a wonderful 2014!

Clay Blobs Play Therapy Technique (and other excellent videos from Liana Lowenstein)

Anyone who follows this blog knows that we frequently link to articles and resources via Liana Lowenstein’s excellent website. It’s one of the most valuable resources out there for mental health professionals working with children. Ms. Lowenstein also sends out a regular newsletter and in this month’s edition she shared the below video about an interesting play therapy technique involving clay blobs. The blobs are used to bring about expression and imagination in a child and foster communication with the therapist.

This video is one of many informative video dispatches from Ms. Lowenstein available on her YouTube Channel.