What is Play Therapy?


Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is often used with children because it tends to utilize play and imagination rather than words as the primary vehicle of communication. Play is a child’s natural form of expression, analogous to the way adults use verbal language to exchange thoughts and ideas. While many people feel that using a board game or other toy in a therapy session constitutes “play therapy”, credentialed play therapists have acquired empirically based methodological strategies that facilitate meaningful play and emotional movement in ways that maximize benefit to the child.


Director 2009-2013

Whenever possible, Dr. Laurie Zelinger utilizes Child Centered Play Therapy, a nondirective, non-judgmental form of play therapy that allows the child to make choices in a safe setting. The job of the therapist is to create a relationship of trust and acceptance that permits a child to freely experiment with the carefully selected toys in the room in his process of growth and discovery. Children are encouraged to find their own solutions to issues that arise during the course of play and to work at their own pace, while the therapist refrains from giving advice or direct assistance. Instead, she offers her full support during the child’s attempts at acquiring new skill and knowledge by adhering to the specific tenets and principles of the Child Centered philosophical approach. This technique empowers children, leads to greater self-esteem and makes the child feel valued. In the process, children are able to improve self-regulation and behavior, and heal emotional wounds. Common childhood difficulties often show spontaneous improvement when this technique is applied correctly by a qualified and credentialed play therapist.

Dr. Zelinger is also trained in psycho-dynamic techniques and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

VISIT THE APT WEBSITE to learn more about how play therapy works, who might benefit from play therapy, what a play therapy session might look like, and where you can find a play therapist in your area.

Play Therapy in Action

Dr. Laurie’s exciting playroom is one where children can freely express whatever they need to, without judgment, direction or correction. It is often said that play is a child’s natural language, and toys are their words. With a myriad of options, the playroom supplies everything a child needs to ignite their imagination and help them work through issues that interfere with their daily lives. Leaning toward a client centered (non-directive) therapeutic approach, the nature and items used in play are entirely the child’s choice. Based on her extensive training and 45 years of clinical experience, Dr. Laurie aligns with the child to facilitate the play story and take it to deeper levels where it can tap into the child’s emotional connection. Mess, noise and freedom are encouraged within a setting that sets boundaries for safety. When needed however, Dr. Zelinger relies upon her training in cognitive behavioral therapy, and will take a more directive approach, utilizing elements of structured play therapy to reach a specific outcome.

Children are seldom aware that they are in a “doctor’s office” and resist leaving at the end of a session. Dr. Laurie is often gifted with notes and messages from children who express how much they care for her.

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