Play therapy can be used as a confirmatory evaluating tool, allowing children to safely reveal their emotional, developmental, or psychological problems, and also as a therapeutic tool to help children overcome their problems. The main play therapy techniques are drawing and painting, clay, music, sand play, therapeutic storytelling, puppets, creative visualization, and therapeutic board games. Some of the common problems evaluated and treated with play therapy techniques are attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety, conduct disorders, and anger management.
The first play therapy techniques often used on a child are drawing and painting. In this technique, a child is given a blank page onto which they can create whatever they want, often revealing much about their inner worries and concerns. Drawing and painting is a valuable play therapy assessment tool which enables therapists to help the child literally draw connections between what they create and themselves. Music works in much the same fashion, allowing children to express their emotions and manipulate their feelings through the energy of the music. Molding and manipulating clay allows kids to build up and even destroy what they have made, expelling or physically manipulating their emotions using the clay.
One of the most common play therapy techniques is the use of story-making, which is the basis of sand play, therapeutic storytelling, and puppetry. Sand play involves choosing miniatures to manipulate within a sand tray world which the child can create and control. By listening to the story and working with the child on the course of the story, a therapist can help the child express emotions and work through their feelings. This same technique can be used with therapeutic storytelling during which a story, relating to the child’s issues, is told so that emotions can be explored using imaginary characters, and a positive outcome can be controlled. Puppets are another method for a child, or a therapist acting for the child, to safely explore a situation and control the outcome or explore various outcomes.
Some children require structures and rules in order to safely explore their feelings, and therapeutic board games are one of the play therapy techniques which afford a more structured type of exploration for these children. The games are geared to mimic a real world situation, and allow the child to safely control the outcome. Creative visualization is a play therapy technique where the child is guided to visualize positive outcomes for difficult and perhaps even anger-provoking situations. This technique is a helpful tool, taught to children at a play therapy session, and sometimes practiced alone or with a parent at home.