Child-Centered Play Therapy

At One-Eighty Counseling I am currently offering Child-Centered Play Therapy to children ages 4-10. Research suggests play therapy can be effective with behavioral issues, grief, trauma, anxiety, depression, and academic and social impairments (A4pt, 2014). Often parents will come into the office requesting play therapy. This blog will help to explain child-centered play therapy techniques to assist parents in deciding if this is the right treatment for their child.

The philosopher, Plato, is often quoted as saying, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation (A4PT, 2014).” An hour of play can show me a child’s feelings, thoughts, beliefs about the world, and confidence in themselves. Play can build trust and mastery, encourages creative thinking and problem solving, elevates self-esteem, and reduces anxieties.

Virginia M. Axline, is thought to be the founder of client centered paly therapy. She referred to play as, “the child’s natural medium of self-expression.” Carl Rogers the originator of client centered play therapy felt that therapy should consist of; empathy, acceptance, genuineness, congruence, safety, and self-regard (VanFleet, Sywulak, Sniscak, 2010). Virginia wondered if children could benefit from the same conditions in play.

Eight basic principles of CCPT

  1. Therapist and child develop a warm and friendly relationship. 
  2. Therapist accepts the child exactly as they are.  As a therapist who uses CCPT in sessions, I make no judgements about a client’s choice of colors for their picture, toys, thoughts, opinions, or feelings shown in session.
  3. Establishing a sense of permissiveness.  I do this by showing interest in the client’s play.  This should not be misinterpreted into thinking a child is free to do whatever they want in the therapy room, but rather giving the child permission to express their thoughts and feelings, and accepting them as they are.
  4. Empathic listening and reflection of feelings (VanFleet, Sywulak, Sniscak, 2010).
  5. Respecting the child’s ability to solve problems.  This is a key aspect!  I believe that people, even small people, are capable of solving their own problems. 
  6. Non-directive, allowing the client to lead the way.
  7. CCPT gives children the time they need to learn about their thoughts, feelings, and personalities. 
  8. Therapists using CCPT set basic limits.  This allows children to have a sense of safety.  This is crucial for children who feel out of control of their own feelings, surrounding, or bodies.  It is also helps with clients who have some anxiety or nervousness about coming to counseling (VanFleet, Sywulak, Sniscak, 2010).

If you feel play therapy would benefit your child feel free to call our office today to set up a new appointment.


Works Cited
Association of Play Therapy United States. (2014). Why Play Therapy? Clovis, California
VanFleet, R., Sywulak, A., & Sniscak, C. (2010). History, Theory, Principles, and Variations of Child-Centered Play Therapy. In Child-Centered Play Therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
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