Play Therapy

Child and Adult Therapy
Lynn Goya, M.Ed., Psy.D., Psychologist

                     Email Dr. Goya at                        
For an appointment or free phone consultation.

Mililani Tech Park    100 Kahelu Ave.  Suite 109   Mililani, HI  96789

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a structured, theoretically-based approach to therapy that builds on normal communicative and learning processes of children (Carmichael, 2006; Landreth, 2002). Therapists strategically utilize play therapy to help children express what is troubling them when they have difficulty using verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings. Toys work like the child’s words and play is the child’s language (Landreth, 2002).

The Association for Play Therapy defines play therapy 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.

Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn new ways of relating.

Trained mental health practitioners use play therapy to help children cope with difficult emotions and find solutions to problems (Reddy, Filels-Hall & Schaefer, 2005). By confronting problems in the clinical play therapy setting, children find healthier solutions. Play therapy helps children change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve concerns (Kaugars & Russ, 2001).

Who benefits from Play Therapy?

Play therapy is the treatment of choice in mental health, school, agency, developmental, hospital, residential, and recreational settings, with clients, especially children (Carmichael, 2006; Reddy, Files-Hall & Schaefer, 2005).

Research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with problems such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Physical and sexual abuse
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Divorce
  • Trauma
  • Chronic illness

How long does Play Therapy take?

Sessions vary; they last 30-50 minutes and are usually held weekly. Research suggests it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions to resolve problems of children referred for treatment. Some children improve much faster. Serious or ongoing problems take longer to resolve (Landreth, 2002; Carmichael, 2006).

Does Play Therapy involve families?

Yes. A family’s role in children’s healing is important. The therapist will make some decisions about how to involve the family in play therapy. The family will be involved in developing goals for treatment and communicate regularly with the therapist to work together on the child’s problems.