Play Therapy with Dr Jen

Play Therapy with Dr Jen

Frequently Asked Questions

While our office does not file insurance directly, you have the option of checking with your insurance company to see if your policy allows for out-of-network reimbursement. If so, I will be happy to give you the special receipt your insurance company will need so that you can be partially or fully reimbursed for the sessions. Unfortunately, Medicaid/state insurances (like Sunshine Health) do not typically allow their enrollees to go outside their network of providers, but other insurance companies sometimes do. Just check with your insurance company to find out if you may qualify for out-of-network reimbursement.

Certainly it’s good for children to learn to clean up after themselves in their daily lives, but toys are treated a little differently in play therapy sessions. Play is viewed as the “language” of children; therefore, toys are the “words” of that language. From this perspective, the toys are a means to an end. It is also helpful for children to see what they have done or created without having it dismantled in front of them before leaving. A child I once counseled liked to create a “Safe Place” out of various items in the playroom; while she went through this phase, I would see her every week take one final glance at the special safe place she had created. Similarly, it is not uncommon for children to ask if the sandtray “world” they created can “stay there forever” or something similar. For these therapeutically-based reasons, children are not required to clean up after themselves at the end of their sessions any more than an adult would be required to clean up their teary tissues.

Even though children play during their sessions, there is a lot going on below the surface. Children play through various themes and work through their emotions while playing; as a result, their experiences in session may be fun on the whole, but there may also be times of confusion, discomfort, and/or even negative feelings such as insecurity, sadness, incompetence, anxiety, among others. This is one reason that it is most therapeutic for children to simply transition to whatever is next without being asked questions about their sessions. A parent might say, for instance, “Okay! Time for us to go head home for dinner!” or “There you are! It’s time to go to grandma’s house now.” Within these types of statements is the implicit message that the child can choose whether or not to share, and you are fine with whatever choice the child makes. Another consideration is that children reach their treatment goals much more quickly when they believe that the therapy room is, in itself, a safe, private place where anything can be addressed, said, processed, and worked through without having to worry about what might be shared with their parents. An ironic side note is that children tend to share more- rather than less- when they are not directly asked about their sessions. This outcome cannot be assumed, but it is interesting that children frequently open up more when they feel no pressure to do so.

Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) is based on the premise that children are inherently driven toward wellness when they are given enough space within an encouraging, reinforcing therapeutic environment. Sessions inevitably include some limits that are set once they are needed, but an important tenet of CCPT is that children are given the opportunity to lead, make choices, explore, discover, and ultimately work through the challenges that are blocking them from reaching their full potential. Therapy sessions are individualized and developmentally informed, so a play therapy session with a three-year-old would look quite different from a therapy session with a teenager.

Children are given the freedom to choose to play in whatever way they like; therefore, play therapy sessions can take many different forms, depending on the individual child. That said, there are some typical features of any play therapy session. First, children work through emotions and past experiences in their sessions. A child who has been bullied at school, for instance, brings this experience into the therapy room where he or she “plays through” themes related to that experience. In their sessions, children demonstrate through their behavior where there are challenges (which can vary widely), and the play therapist interacts with the children in strategic ways to bring about improvement.

Even if a child has clear issues that need to be addressed, the reality is that every interaction that a child has during the week between sessions can either reinforce or undermine the child’s progress in therapy. For this reason, I make it a regular practice to work closely with parents and even teach them some of the techniques play therapists use in sessions so that parents can begin to mirror these strategies at home. Parents feel empowered to no longer wonder if they are handling a situation in the best way, because I help and support parents, give specific advice, and work with parents as they begin using the new interactional skills I have taught them. I also offer a more structured, in-depth training for parents who believe they would benefit from the additional guidance and support.

The duration of the therapy process does vary from child to child. Nearly all children have significantly improved by the time they have reached their 20th weekly session which is also the national average. Various factors can impact progress; for instance, if there are any life or family changes while a child is in therapy, the child still improves, but it may take a little bit longer. Parents play a crucial role in making the decision that it is time to do the “countdown” to the final celebratory session, and I communicate clearly with parents to let them know if/when I am no longer seeing any new themes emerge during the sessions.

Contact Dr. Jennifer Clay for a free initial parent consultation. Session details, including fees, can be discussed at that time.

Sure! Play Therapy is highly individualized and can look different, depending on a child’s personality, developmental level, age, interests, and other factors. The ways in which play is incorporated into sessions can also vary, depending on these factors. While younger children use play as their means of communicating (their “language”), teenagers tend to use play as a way to feel more comfortable, break down walls of resistance, to soothe themselves, and/or give their hands something to do while they talk. Teenagers sometimes prefer to talk more than play (which is absolutely fine!), but it is quite common for even these adolescents to grab some slime, play dough or some other item to work with busily while they talk. There are neurological and developmental reasons for this preference (that I won’t get into here), but the important thing is that it works. There are also principles of Child-Centered Play Therapy that can and do apply to children of all ages. For instance, whether a child is four or fourteen, he or she can feel confident and empowered/capable or underconfident and incompetent. A play therapist is trained to notice the signs and indications that a child is struggling in a given area and to work on these areas within the sessions.