Topic outline

  • General

  • Play Therapy

    Hi my name is Hazel Hughes and I am a class teacher  here at Ysgol Pen Coch as well as a therapist in Play.  As part of my CPD I have been fortunate to be given the opportunity to do a Post Graduate Certificate in Therapeutic Play with PTUK .  On completion of my course I will become registered as a Certified Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills on the Professional Standards Authority’s AVR register of Play and Creative Arts Therapists managed by PTUK.  I have always had an interest in children’s play and am passionate about the benefits of play therapy.   I am currently working with a small group of pupils . Children are not always able to verbally express what they are feeling, instead, they will communicate what they are experiencing through play. Play therapy serves children well as it allows them to use their most natural form of expression, that of play, to communicate. Play therapy in return allows the play therapist to communicate understanding, acceptance and options in a way that children can most readily take in.

    As a therapeutic play practitioner, I encourage children to use play to share their life experiences, express their concerns and worries and find solutions to problems. In the playroom I provide an environment where a child feels safe, accepted and understood. This process empowers the child and through play he/she feels a sense of control and mastery. When children experience a sense of mastery over themselves and their behaviour it leads to feelings of self worth. This in turn allows them more flexibility in the world and in time they begin to choose behaviour that is more enjoyable for the people around them.

     I work under the clinical supervision of a qualified Play Therapist.  I have been trained in and follow the guidance from Axline’s Principles of non directive play therapy during the sessions with pupils:

    As the therapist I:

    •   Must develop a warm and friendly relationship with the children
    •       Accept the child as he or she is
    •       Establishes a feeling of permission in the relationship so that the child feels free to  express his or her feelings completely
    •       Be alert to recognise the feelings the child is expressing and reflects these feelings back in such a manner that the child gains insight into his /her behaviour
    •       Maintains deep respect for the child’s ability to solve his/her problems and gives  the child the opportunity to do so.  The responsibility to make choices and to  institute change is the child’s
    •       Does not attempt to direct the child’s actions or conversations in any manner.  The child leads the way; the therapist follows
    •       Does not hurry the therapy along. It is a gradual process and must be recognised as such by the therapist.
    • Only establishes those limitations necessary to anchor the therapy to the world of reality and to make the child aware of his/her responsibility in the relationship.


    These principles emphasise the importance of a practitioner being able to use a comprehensive 'Play Therapy Tool-Kit'     which we have purchased using the Pupil Deprivation Grant                      


    • This video will give you an idea of what play therapy is all about  BAPT%20_%20Play%20Therapy%20In%20Action.flv

      • Toolkit

        Here is an example of the toolkit used here at Pen Coch.. 


        • Topic 4

          The History of Play Therapy  

          The use of play in therapy was first elucidated by the pioneers of Child Psychotherapy. Anna Freud (1928, 1964, 1965), Margaret Lowenfeld (1935, 1970) and Melanie Klein (1961, 1987) posited the theoretical premise for the use of play, for example, Klein (1961, 1987) stipulated that a child's spontaneous play was a substitute for the free association used within adult psychoanalysis.

          Theories and practice surrounding play differ within each Child Psychotherapy tradition. However, each tradition is connected by the central proposition that play transmits and communicates the child's unconscious experiences, desires, thoughts and emotions.

          Play Therapy has emerged from elements of Child Psychotherapy with the specific theoretical foundations emerging from the Humanistic Psychology tradition and Attachment theory.

          In the 1940's, Carl Rogers (1951, 1955) established a new model of psychotherapy - client centred therapy (later termed person centred therapy). This new tradition was born as a protest against the diagnostic, prescriptive perspectives of that time. Emphasis was placed upon a relationship between therapist and client based upon genuineness, acceptance and trust. As such, the person centred approach posited a new and original theoretical perspective of personality structure, psychological health, acquisition of psychological difficulty and the change process within therapy.

          Largely influenced by this person centred approach, Axline (1969, 1971) developed a new therapeutic approach for working with children - non directive Play Therapy. Utilising the person centred theoretical foundations, Axline devised a clear and succinct Play Therapy theory and method. Her account of how she worked with a young boy called Dibs is well known (Dibs: In Search of Self, 1964). Axline described in great detail how she worked with Dibs and how he was able to heal himself over a period of time. She said "No-one ever knows as much about a human being's inner world as the individual himself. Responsible freedom grows and develops from inside the person". Her eight principles of the therapeutic relationship inform the work of many Play Therapists.                                            

          Clark Moustakas describes his work as being concerned with the kind of relationship needed to make therapy a growth experience. His stages start with the child's feelings being generally negative and as they are expressed, they become less intense, the end results tend to be the emergence of more positive feelings and more balanced relationships.

          For over 50 years, Play Therapy has been practiced and researched within America. This has been led by many Play Therapists, including Moustakas (1953, 1966, 1973, 1981, 1992), Schaefer (1976, 1986, 1993) and Landreth (1991,2002) who have progressed Axline's original formulations and devised differing models integrating elements of systemic family therapy, narrative therapy, solution focused therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.

          In Britain, Play Therapy started to emerge as a new and differing tradition in the 1980's. Initially the Children's Hour Trust taught professionals the basic techniques of Axline's Play Therapy used in a multitude of settings. In parallel, two Dramatherapists started using Play Therapy methods to inform their Dramatherapy practice with children. Sue Jennings (1994) and Ann Cattanach (1993, 1994, 1998) integrated elements of non directive Play Therapy to formulate a British Play Therapy movement. In 1990, the Institute of Dramatherapy started to offer a Certificate and Diploma in Play Therapy.

          • Topic 5

            Theoretical Basis of Play Therapy   


            Play Therapy emphasises the client as trustworthy. Play Therapy is based upon three critical theoretical principles:

            Actualisation - Humans are motivated by an innate tendency to develop constructive and healthy capacities. This tendency is to actualise each person's inner potentials, including aspects of creativity, curiosity and the desire to become more effective and autonomous.
            The Need for Positive Regard - All people require warmth, respect and acceptance from others, especially from 'significant others'. As children grow and develop, this need for positive regard transforms into a secondary, learned need for positive self regard.
            Play as Communication - Children use play as their primary medium of communication. Play is a format for transmitting children's emotions, thoughts, values and perceptions. It is a medium that is primarily creative.

            British Play Therapy is currently defined as:

            "Play Therapy is the dynamic process between child and Play Therapist in which the child explores at his or her own pace and with his or her own agenda those issues, past and current, conscious and unconscious, that are affecting the child's life in the present. The child's inner resources are enabled by the therapeutic alliance to bring about growth and change. Play Therapy is child-centred, in which play is the primary medium and speech is the secondary medium."