What is Play Therapy?




Play is our first language according to the Association for Play Therapy. Just as adults use words to communicate, children use play to express thoughts and feelings. Feb. 4-10 is National Play Therapy Week and to honor the occasion we chatted with local therapist Nancy Rumley Soliz to learn more about what play therapy is and what type of child can benefit from it. Simply put, play therapy is an effective form of therapy for children because play is a relaxing, enjoyable activity that connects people in a positive way, regulates emotions and stimulates creative thinking. Soliz, a licensed marital and family therapist with a certification in play therapy, is the president of the Oklahoma Association for Play Therapy. She's worked in therapeutic foster care, schools and private practice. 

How does a parent know if his or her child would benefit from play therapy?

I work with children with a wide-range of issues. The most common reasons parents bring children to see me are major transitions (such as divorce, grief, illness, remarriage, foster care, adoption), behavioral concerns (such as school refusal, suspension, hyperactivity, defiance, low self-esteem, social/relational issues) or trauma (abuse, natural disasters, stressful experiences). Most parents or guardians have found that through the play therapy sessions, their child has shown improvement in addressing the presenting issue.

Tell us a little bit about what’s involved with a play therapy session.

The first time someone calls me for a session with their child, I will meet with the parents or guardians. In this meeting, we will go over what issues brought them to seeking out therapy. I will also get to know information about their child that might help me in our work together.  After that initial meeting, I meet with the child in my playroom. The playroom is specifically designed and outfitted with toys for the child. Toys such as puppets, art supplies, miniatures, dollhouses, dress-up and a sand tray are included. For a play therapist, "toys are children's words and play is their language" (Garry Landreth, 2002). 

During my time with the child, I work in conjunction with the child to communicate what is going on in their life through the play. I will meet with the family in addition to individual sessions with the child to help us come up with the best plan to help their child both in therapy and in the home. Sessions are usually 50-60 minutes in length and are held weekly.  Depending upon the issues, 20 sessions tends to be the average number of sessions needed to resolve the problem. Play Therapy is typically geared for children ages 3-12, but there are several play-based techniques that I use even with adults and families!   

How have you seen children benefit from play therapy?

 I have seen children benefit from play therapy in a variety of ways.  I have seen children develop more appropriate ways of communicating, being able to express their feelings, improve their behavior, cope with numerous difficult circumstances and develop confidence. My hope is that the work that we do in play therapy extends beyond the room, and throughout their lives as a way to solve various problems in their future.  

To find registered play therapists in Oklahoma, click here.

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