Child Centred Play Therapy

What is Child Centred
Play Therapy?

A therapy offered to children between 2 and 7 Child Centered Play Therapy an evidence based treatment and the philosophy that every child has an innate ability to express their innermost feelings, thoughts and challenges; to learn to modulate their feelings and behaviours; develop a positive sense of self; problem solve solutions and improve resilience in even the most challenging of situations.

The specific communication style the psychologist uses supports an accepting, warm and trusting relationship with limit setting in the context of the child’s natural language of play.  The child is able to undertake the internal
work that they require to heal themselves with lasting changes.

How will I know if
play therapy is suitable for my child?

Play therapy helps children with social or emotional difficulties express their emotions better, improve their behaviour, practice problem-solving and improve their social relationships.
Play therapy can be used to help children with the following issues:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavioural disorders
  • ADHD
  • Autism spectrum

Your child does not need to have a diagnosis to benefit from play therapy, it can be very useful if your child is experiencing any of these circumstances:

  • Issues with them or other family members with a serious illness or hospitalisation
  • Family conflict or aggression issues
  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Family crisis
  • School change
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Peer problems

How often will my child need to attend?

Continuity and consistency is important for children to feel safe and heal therefore sessions usually occur on a weekly basis at the same time for 45 minutes each.  The number of sessions is dependent on the nature and severity of the presenting problem/s ranging from 6 weekly consultations to weekly sessions over a period of up to 2

Stages of Child Centred Play Therapy

A child who attends Child Centered Play Therapy will usually progress through four main stages.  Each child will progress through the stages differently and there is no right or wrong way.  A child may progress through stages in a consecutive order or move backwards and forwards through the stages.  The child’s progress is dependent on their individual experiences of the world to understand and work through their challenges.

Stage 1 Warm up Stage or Exploratory Stage

  • Developing a sense of what the therapy space is for and what they can or cannot do.
  • Exploration of the therapy room and getting to know the therapist.
  • Testing the limits and boundaries with the therapist.

Stage 2 Aggressive or Testing for protection Stage

  • When a child feels secure enough in the therapeutic relationship they will start to express their presenting issues (e.g., anger, behavioural concerns) and feel safe to test the boundaries.
  • Limits may be set with the child (e.g., supporting the child to remain in the room, providing options for the child to express their anger)
  • The child learns to understand their inner selves and heal by learning skills through play.
  • The child expresses themselves and their presenting problems and feels accepted, safe and supported.

Stage 3 Regressive or Dependency Stage

  • Working through safety and protection concerns, grief and loss, separation, understanding good or bad or feelings of low self-esteem.
  • The child may exhibit increased dependency or regressive behaviour’s to help them to feel safe (e.g., asking the therapist to do things for them that are able to do for themselves, acting like a baby).
  • The therapist facilitates progress by supporting the child to express their inner-self (thoughts, feelings/emotions and belief’s) and engage in problem solving.

Stage 4 Mastery or Therapeutic Growth Stage

  • A resolution is reached, the child feels good about themselves and different behaviours are present (reduction of problematic or challenging behaviours).
  • A confident sense of self, self-acceptance and worth through mastery of self-directed and appropriate expressions of their unique personality (their true self) develops.
  • The child is able to express their feelings/emotions and understanding of the world freely with no/minimal distress.
  • The child learns a sense of control (not needing to be in control) to choose and apply effective problem solving and emotion regulation skills that facilitates resilience and self-efficacy.

NOTE: When a child reaches a resolution the child may need another (1-4) sessions to consolidate the changes, prepare the child for termination of therapy and to say good-bye to the therapist and the therapy play room.
The information provided was compiled by Natalie Marques (Registered Psychologist) with reference to authors and Child Centered Play Therapists Dr. Garry Landreth, Louise Guerney, and Jewel Janan.


The initial appointment with you and your child is 50 minutes. For most issues, follow up appointments are usually split between you and your child or you and your child together, this allows time for use to answer any questions you may have about their progress. If you have any questions please come into the appointment 15 minutes before the scheduled end time i.e., after 35 minutes so that these can be worked through. Our sessions are blocked as 50 minute appointments, the remainder of the session is to make notes, contact relevant people and prepare for your child’s next session, this ensures that our sessions start on the hour or half hour.

The length of therapy is quite variable, and the final decision regarding the length of therapy rests jointly with you
and your psychologist. Some children/teens stay for three sessions, while others are in counselling for two or three years or
more. Most children/teens need between 6 to 14 sessions to overcome general anxiety, depression or family issues.
Children with significant family concerns or more complex issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder or post-
traumatic stress disorder may require 20 or more sessions. For children/teens, this will depend on their age, the issues
presented and type of treatment used. For many concerns parents will also attend some sessions to get strategies to
help with your child.

In the beginning you will need see your therapist weekly to establish your therapy and build some traction. This takes a minimum of 3 sessions we recommend you book these in on your first appointment. After this, therapy needs to be paced according to your issues, the therapy style your therapist is using and even your financial considerations. Some people come fortnightly, others monthly.

For many young child clients including parents is an important part of the change process and you will be invited into
the last 15-20 minutes of the appointment regularly . If you would like an update about your child’s progress send
the psychologist an email requesting this so that they can arrange the appropriate forum, whether that is a pre-
booked and prepaid skype/phone session, additional face to face appointment or otherwise we often need time to
prepare a response if we have not already scheduled time with you during your child’s sessions.

Once you book an appointment its yours. We encourage you to keep your appointments to avoid delays in booking new ones and to speak with our team members about discontinuing therapy. If there is no way you can make it please call reception to reschedule.

If there is no way you can make a skype session and you need to change or cancel an appointment, please provide at least 48 hours notice otherwise there are cancellation fees.

All of our team members are registered psychologists so you are able to claim Medicare or Private Health Fund rebates (you can only claim one or the other per session). Medicare provides a rebate of either $84.80 or $124.50 back per session for up to 10 sessions per calendar year provided you have a Mental Health Plan drafted by your GP and a referral letter to any psychologist. After the initial 6 sessions you need to return to your GP for a review to access the final 4 for the calendar year. Private health rebates are available provided you have cover for psychology.

We offer appointments between the hours of 9 am and 7pm Monday to Friday and 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday. Individual psychologist availability varies, please contact reception for more information.

When our clients are preschool-aged children, we generally only see them with a parent or guardian present and involved in the sessions, so parents are aware of all the information being shared. For older children, it is often beneficial for them to spend some time alone with their psychologist at some stage, but only if and when the child and family are comfortable with this.  If children spend some time in session alone with their psychologist, confidentiality also applies for them as clients, in that we would request their permission to share specific information they have shared with us, even with parents (though there are still the same exceptions, such as when there are concerns about risk of harm).

Our experienced child practitioners

Francisca Lessa
Provisional Psychologist

Francisca is a valued member of our team and very experienced child play therapist. She is committed to working with you and your child to better manage a wide range of emotional …

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