The three main approaches I use are Play Therapy, Art Therapy and SandTray Therapy. But what are they exactly? How do they work? Hopefully this short description will help you understand what it is all about!


What it is:

Play therapy is a a psychotherapeutic approach of treatment mostly used with children and youth, though it can be used with adults.  It uses play as a means for the express of thoughts and emotions.  Play therapy can include the use of games, blocks, dolls, puppets, and other toys.


The goal is to help children learn self-expression, learn how to solve problems more effectively, and learn news ways of behaving or thinking.  Play therapy will help increase the child’s social, emotional, and cognitive skills.


Play Therapy can be non-directive or directive.  Non-directive means that the child decides what activities they wish to do within the boundaries of the playroom.  Making decisions and taking charge is an important developmental task for children.  A non-directive approach works well with those who are anxious, depressed, or have a low frustration tolerance. 

A directive approach means that the therapist decides which activities to do.  A directive approach can help when children’s play becomes ‘stuck’ or repetitious.  Also, it is useful for children who have difficulty making decisions, or when the therapist has a specific goal in mind for that session.

 Most therapists will use both approaches.


What it is:

In Art Therapy, art is the main medium for expression.  It is used with people of all ages.  It can include working with paint, clay, drawing, and other art tools.  You do not need to be an artist to participate in Art Therapy.  It is useful for those who have limited language skills.  They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.”


The goal is to help people learn self-expression, and develop in areas such as socially, emotionally, and cognitively. 


Art Therapy can include non-directive art making or directive art making.   Non-directive means that the client decides what art materials they wish to use and how to use them.  It is a useful way to increase self-expression, self-awareness, and helpful for those who are anxious, and withdrawn.

Directive means the therapist decides on either the theme or topic of the art making or provides a specific activity.  For example, the therapist can ask the client to make an image expressing how anger looks or feels to them.  Also, the therapist may have more direct activities for the client to participate in such as making a dream-catcher or a clay pot. 


What it is:

In Sand Tray Therapy the client uses sand and small toys or items to create a scene in a small sandbox.  It is used with people of all ages.  It is useful for those with limited language skills.


The goal is to help the client express their world, their thoughts and their emotions.  It can help increase self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-esteem.


SandTray therapy can be non-directive or directive.  A non-directive approach means that the client decides on the theme they wish to represent in the sandtray.

In a directive approach, the therapist will present the client with a specific theme they wish to explore.  For example, the therapist may ask the client to “show me your family in the sandtray.”  The therapist will not show them the images or small items to use.

Play Therapy, Art Therapy and SandTray Therapy are all powerful tools for those of all ages.

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