At Alive Counselling, we offer counselling for kids ages 3 + and parents.

Play is a child’s language. Children learn, process, express, and connect through play!


Play is language. It is communicating something.

Play is also safety, rapport, and connection with the child you love.


As a mom of four, I am so excited that we offer Therapy for Kids, including Play Therapy at Alive Counselling in Kelowna, BC! On our team, we have former teachers and moms who love working with kids, teens, parents, and families. Barb, Laura, and Samantha have completed Play Therapy certificates with the Institute of Child Psychology.


Play Therapy: What it is, How it Works, and When to Use it

Check out more information summarized below, and in greater detail at the bootom of the page as according to the Institute of Child Psychology!

  • Play is to the child what talk is to the adult.
Institute of Child Psychology

Play therapy is a medium for

  • expressing feelings,
  • exploring relationships,
  • describing experiences,
  • disclosing wishes, and
  • nurturing self-fulfillment.

Children express themselves and their needs, relive their past, and connect with others through play. The use of toys enables children to transfer anxieties, fears, fantasies, and guilt to objects rather than people. In the process, children are safe from their own feelings and reactions because play enables children to distance themselves from traumatic events and experiences.

Therapeutic play is an evidence-based approach to help children with social or emotional deficits learn to

  • communicate better,
  • express underlying feelings they may be struggling with,
  • change their behaviour,
  • develop problem-solving skills, and
  • relate to others in positive ways.

When is Play Therapy Beneficial?

It is appropriate for children undergoing or witnessing stressful events in their lives, those struggling with academic and social problems, learning disabilities, behavioural disorders, anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, or anger; as well as those with attention deficit disorders, or who are on the autism spectrum.

Play therapy is designed to increase connection, while reducing stress; processing of stressful experiences; increasing confidence, empathy, pro-social behaviour, self-esteem, and attention span.

In summary, when we play with, a child we connect. Incorporating play into therapy and mental health care for children can help them express and process emotions, increase connection, build resilience, and learn lifelong coping skills.


Therapists at Alive Counselling who who offer counselling for kids in Kelowna, BC:

Laura Belland is a registered clinical counsellor and former elementary teacher and support teacher, mom, and therapist who offers therapy for kids in Kelowna ages 5 and up, youth, teens, and parents.

Samantha Cooper is a registered clinical counsellor, beloved auntie, and a former youth leader who loves working with kids, youth, adolescents, teens, and young adults in Kelowna. Samantha has completed her certificate through the Insititute of Child Psychology, as well as her Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behvioral Therapy (TF-CBT) training.

Lauren Mills is a registered clinical counsellor and also a former high school teacher, athlete, and coach who works with kids, teens and adults, and neurodivergent populations including ADHD and Autism support.

Stacey Boe is a mom of two and registered clinical counsellor with Alive Counselling in Kelowna who works expectant moms, new moms, and parents as well as kids ages 10 and up. Stacey works in perinatal and postpartum depression, EMDR trauma therapy, and anxiety.

Barb Egan is the owner of Alive Counselling, registered clinical counsellor, approved clinical supervisor, and mom of 4 who loves helping women prepare for birth, transition into motherhood, supporting moms, families & couples, and kids they love.

You can click on their names to read their bios and availability, and book a complimentary consultation or appointment. Or please reach out with any questions and we are happy to help care for you and the kids you love!

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Play Therapy Unpacked

Play therapy is a form of therapy used primarily for children. That’s because children may not be able to process their own emotions or articulate problems to parents or other adults.

While it may look like an ordinary playtime, play therapy can be much more than that!

A trained therapist can use playtime to observe and gain insights into a child’s problems. The therapist can then help the child explore emotions and deal with unresolved trauma. Through play, children can learn new coping mechanisms and how to redirect inappropriate behaviors.

Play therapy is practiced by a variety of licensed mental health professionals, like psychologists and psychiatrists. It’s also practiced by behavioral and occupational therapists, physical therapists, and social workers.

In addition, the Association for Play Therapy offers specialized training programs and advanced credentials for licensed mental health professionals, school counselors, and school psychologists.

Benefits of play therapy

According to the professional organization Play Therapy International, up to 71 % of children referred to play therapy may experience positive change.

While some children might start off with some hesitation, trust in the therapist tends to grow. As they become more comfortable and their bond strengthens, the child may become more creative or more verbal in their play.

Some of the potential benefits of play therapy are:

  • taking more responsibility for certain behaviors
  • developing coping strategies and creative problem-solving skills
  • self-respect
  • empathy and respect for others
  • alleviation of anxiety
  • learning to fully experience and express feelings
  • stronger social skills
  • stronger family relationships

Play therapy can also encourage use of language or improve fine and gross motor skills.

If your child has a diagnosed mental or physical illness, play therapy doesn’t replace medications or any other necessary treatments. Play therapy can be used alone or alongside other therapies.

When play therapy is used

Although people of all ages can benefit from play therapy, it’s typically used with children between the ages of 3 and 12. Play therapy may be helpful in a variety of circumstances, such as:

How does play therapy work?

There’s a bit of a communication gap between children and adults. Depending on age and stage of development, children simply don’t have the language skills of adults. They may feel something, but in many cases, they either can’t express it to an adult or don’t have a trusted adult to express it to.

On the other end, adults can misinterpret or completely miss the child’s verbal and nonverbal cues.

Children learn to understand the world and their place in it through play. It’s where they’re free to act out their inner feelings and deepest emotions. Toys can act as symbols and take on greater meaning — if you know what to look for.

Since the child can’t adequately express themselves in the adult world, the therapist joins the child in their world, on their level.

As they play, the child may become less guarded and more apt to share their feelings. But they aren’t pressured. They’re allowed to do so in their own time and with their own method of communication.

Play therapy will differ depending on the therapist and the particular needs of the child. To begin, the therapist may want to observe the child at play. They may also want to conduct separate interviews with the child, parents, or teachers.

After a thorough assessment, the therapist will set some therapeutic goals, decide on what limits may be necessary, and formulate a plan for how to proceed.

Play therapists pay close attention to how a child handles being separated from the parent, how they play alone, and how they react when the parent returns.

Much can be revealed in how a child interacts with different types of toys and how their behavior changes from session to session. They may use play to act out fears and anxieties, as a soothing mechanism, or to heal and problem-solve.

Play therapists use these observations as a guide to the next steps. Each child is different, so therapy will be tailored to their individual needs. As therapy progresses, behaviors and goals can be reassessed.

At some point, the therapist may bring parents, siblings, or other family members into play therapy. This is known as filial therapy. It can help teach conflict resolution, promote healing, and improve family dynamics.

Play therapy techniques

Sessions typically last 30 minutes to an hour and are held once a week or so. How many sessions are needed depends on the child and how well they respond to this type of therapy. Therapy can take place individually or in groups.

Play therapy can be directive or nondirective. In the directive approach, the therapist will take the lead by specifying the toys or games that’ll be used in the session. The therapist will guide the play with a specific goal in mind.

The nondirective approach is less structured. The child is able to choose toys and games as they see fit. They’re free to play in their own way with few instructions or interruptions. The therapist will observe closely and participate as appropriate.

Sessions must take place in an environment where the child feels safe and where there are few limitations. The therapist may use techniques that involve:

  • creative visualization
  • storytelling
  • role-playing
  • toy phones
  • puppets, stuffed animals, and masks
  • dolls, action figures
  • arts and crafts
  • water and sand play
  • blocks and construction toys
  • dance and creative movement
  • musical play

Examples of play therapy

Depending on the child and the situation, the therapist will either guide the child toward certain methods of play or let them choose for themselves. There are any number of ways the therapist can use play therapy to get to know the child and help them cope with their problems.

For example, the therapist might offer the child a dollhouse and some dolls, asking them to act out some problems they have at home. Or they might encourage the child to use hand puppets to recreate something they found stressful or frightening.

They might ask your child to tell a “once upon a time” story to see what the child might bring to light. Or they might read stories that solve a problem similar to your child’s. This is referred to as bibliotherapy.

It could be as simple as asking questions while your child is drawing or painting to try to gain insights into their thought process. Or play various games with the child to encourage problem-solving, cooperation, and social skills.

Play therapy for adults

Play isn’t just for kids, and neither is play therapy. Teenagers and adults can also have a difficult time expressing their innermost feelings in words. Adults who may benefit from play therapy include those affected by:

When working with adults, a therapist may use dramatic role-playing or sand-tray therapy to help you get in touch with feelings that are hard to talk about. These therapies can help you work on strategies for dealing with particular scenarios.

The very act of playing, whether it’s games, arts and crafts, or music and dance, can help you relax and unwind from the stresses of everyday life.

Art therapymusic therapy, and movement can help reveal hidden traumas and promote healing. Under the guidance of an experienced therapist, play can be a valuable tool in getting you where you want to be.

Play therapy for adults may be used as a complement to other types of therapy and medications. As with children, the therapist will tailor play therapy to your specific needs.

Takeaway

Play therapy is a method of therapy that uses play to uncover and deal with psychological issues. It can be used on its own, particularly with children, or along with other therapies and medications.

To get the most out of play therapy, look for a licensed mental health professional experienced in this type of therapy.