Play is a natural form of communication for all children. It provides an opportunity for them to make sense of their experience, to express their joys, hopes fears, anxieties, anger, sadness and confusion in a way that it is safe and unpressurised for them.

Sometimes children find that they are unable to process what is happening in their lives now or what has happened to them in the past and begin to communicate that in behaviours that parents, carers and teachers may become worried about. 

These can be both anxious, fearful, withdrawn behaviours and angry, emotional outbursts. They may suddenly have difficulties in their relationships or anxiety about going to school for example.


Perhaps something is happening over which they have no control, their parents are separating, someone they love has died or gone away, or they are being bullied at school. Perhaps they are a child who is processing their experience of being fostered or adopted. 


Many children cannot find the words to express their experience, but they can play it out. Some children find that through play they can find a way to express what is so difficult, when words are not enough. 


When children are supported in making sense of their experience they develop resilience and emotional literacy which supports their development throughout their lives.


The therapist works creatively to provide a safe, boundaried space where children can express themselves through their natural language of play. In doing so she gently helps them attach language to their experience and to understand their feelings and make sense of their experience.

She uses a variety of materials, toys, paint, clay, sand tray work, puppets. The child usually finds the materials they are most comfortable and happy to use.

The relationship between the therapist and the child underpins the approach. The therapist creates the conditions that allow the development of a safe, boundaried, constructive, non-judgmental therapeutic relationship within which the work can take place.


In order for the child to be really free to express their inner world safely, the content of the sessions are confidential and are not shared with parents/ carers. However we can think together about themes and strategies to support your child at home and at school.

Sessions are not ‘secret’ a child can share everything and anything they want to about their session, but in all likelihood they may choose not to. It is really helpful for the work, and important for the child’s sense of growing identity and autonomy to respect that it is their space and their decision.


One of the most helpful things about play based counselling is its universality. It can be adapted for all developmental levels, abilities, gender, culture and ethnicity. It is suitable for all ages of children and can even be used with adolescents and adults.

It is a supportive intervention for children with a variety of presenting problems or difficulties, here are just some:

  • Children who are experiencing big or difficult changes in their lives such as parental separation

  • Children who have experienced loss/bereavement

  • Children who have experienced early loss and interrupted attachment and may be fostered or adopted

  • Children who externalise their difficulties with angry, aggressive anti-social behaviours

  • Children who internalise their difficulties with low self-esteem, anxious, fearful withdrawn behaviours

  • Children who have themselves or have siblings with additional needs, physical disability or life-limiting illness

  • Children who have been abused; physically, sexually and emotionally

© 2020 by Wealden Counselling Practice

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Hamblys Natural Health Centre

The Old Dairy


East Sussex TN5 6DE