Play Therapy

Play therapy is psychotherapy for children. It is called play therapy because it is the medium whereby most children communicate. Play is a child’s medium of expressing their experiences as well as their feelings about themselves.   Play therapy can be directive or non-directive. Non-directive play-therapy allows the child to present new information. However, play therapy does not solely constitute “playing”. In particular, for older children, play therapy consists of many modalities. Just as all children are different, there are various ways of assisting a child with his or her difficulties. Some of the more common modalities or “tools” used are:


Bibliotherapy is an approach used in play therapy whereby books are used as a therapeutic tool for children. Therapeutic books for children provide a story about a child who copes with a situation similar to the one the child may be experiencing. A child is helped to think about their feelings through the story as well as using the coping resources incorporated in the story.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is the use of one’s imagination in a focused way to help the mind and body self-heal, perform, and recuperate on both a physical and emotional level.


Puppets offer physical and psychological safety that invites greater self-expression because children are allowed to displace their uncomfortable feelings onto the puppets. Playing with puppets creates an atmosphere of fantasy that is absorbing to the child, while at the same time being non-threatening. Children are thus able to communicate their distress and unhappiness. Consequently, the therapist uses  puppets to reflect understanding and provide corrective emotional experiences in response to the child’s play.


Stories, tales and anecdotes are used which contain therapeutic metaphors which creates therapeutic results. Stories are used in play therapy to suggest new options and to get a youngster’s full attention, to put forward hidden abilities, to combine suggestions, and to establish hope and optimism by exposing the youngster to a favorable ending.


Hypnosis is not a therapy in itself. When combined with different forms of psychological treatment it becomes hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy, as a treatment modality has specific therapeutic goals and specific techniques.

Art therapy

Art therapy is used to help children and adolescents explore and express themselves through art. Through this process youngsters find relief from overwhelming emotions, crises or trauma.

Therapeutic Games

There are a variety of games (usually in a board form) which provide a fun and non-threatening way of assisting children and adolescents with various concerns. Specific games assist children with divorce, feeling shy, anger, social skills and so forth.



What are assessments?

Assessments are a range of tests that psychologists use to determine a child's strengths and specific difficulties and/or vulnerabilities that children may be experiencing. Assessments usually offer the answers to behavior that does not make sense, such as avoiding home-work, poor school grades, low motivation and so forth. Cristine works with an Educational Psychologist at Bryanwood Therapy and Assessment Centre to conduct the evaluations. Children from three years of age can be assessed.

For young children, developmental assessments are undertaken. Their developmental status is determined by measuring the child against their specific age. Areas looked at are fine- and gross-motor abilities, speech and language skills and so forth. It is often very important to start relevant therapies as early as possible before children reach formal schooling if difficulties are noted. Between the ages of three to five potential difficulties start getting noticed by teachers and parents. During this age group developmental assessments become especially relevant in diagnosing pervasive developmental disorders and autism.
Psycho-educational assessments are conducted on older children (6 years +). They may be necessary for school readiness purposes, so as to enquire whether a child will be best suited for Grade 0 or Grade 1 placement. School Readiness assessments at Bryanwood Therapy and Assessment Centre are comprehensive as it includes an emotional component and takes place on a one to one basis.

For children who are not coping at school or are not getting adequate grades and don't enjoy school a psycho-educational assessment is essential. The first test that is conducted is an IQ test. These tests provide valuable information for understanding how children learn and why they may not be making progress at school. The IQ test consist of four components: A Verbal Index which is a measure of spoken language ability. The Nonverbal Index is a measure of visual-spatial ability whereby the score shows how the child performed on puzzle- and pattern- based tests. The Processing Speed Index shows how the child performed on two paper-and-pencil tasks that test how quickly children can process and respond to visual information. The Working Memory Index shows how a child did on tests remembering and repeating back strings of numbers and letters.

The information that the IQ scores give can be used to do the following:

  1. Give an accurate picture of what can be expected from the child educationally;
  2. Separate out types of learning difficulties or rule out learning difficulties;
  3. Understand the impact of patterns of ability on learning.

The second component of a psycho-educational assessment is the scholastic testing. Tests of educational functioning cover skills taught in the classroom. Here the tests determine at what level a child is functioning with regards to Reading, Reading Comprehension, Spelling, Writing and Mathematics. It is often important for the psychologist to look at all these skills in order to evaluate the child's pattern of strengths and weaknesses.

The third component of a psycho-educational assessment is the emotional component. A thorough assessment is garnered in terms of a child's emotional well-being. An emotional assessment is especially important for children with difficulties at school as there is a correlation between poor grades and emotional issues such as self-esteem issues, depression and so forth.

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