Child-Centered Play Therapy

North Valley Behavioral Health

What is child-centered play therapy?

Dr. Garry Landreth defines child-centered play therapy (CCPT) as “a dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child (or person of any age) and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures who provides selected play materials and facilitates the development of a safe relationship for the child (or person of any age) to full express and explore self (feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors) through play, the child’s natural medium of communication, for optimal growth and development.”

How does CCPT work?

Registered play therapist April Schottelkorb, PhD, LCPC, NCC Just as adults talk about their problems to feel better, children best communicate through play. Through play, children express bothersome feelings and thoughts, and through the therapeutic process, therapists help children develop a better understanding of themselves.

Play therapists use specific skills to help children develop appropriate expression of their feelings, develop solutions to their problems and develop responsibility for their own actions. Play therapists foster an environment that helps children feel understood, accepted and safe, and as a result of this relationship children are less likely to maintain problematic behaviors.

How is CCPT different from other child therapy methods?

CCPT is based on knowledge of child development, which acknowledges that for children, play is the most natural means to facilitate learning and expression due to abstract thinking not yet being present. Extensive research shows that CCPT is an effective therapy for children with a variety of presenting problems. The primary goals in CCPT are to help children develop self-control, self-responsibility and an internal locus of evaluation.

Who can CCPT help?

Child painting The research base for CCPT is extensive. CCPT has evidence supporting its use for children ages 3 to 10 with these presenting problems:
  • ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
  • Aggression behavioral problems
  • Negative self-esteem
  • Social skills deficits
  • Teacher/student problems
  • Academic achievement delays
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Parent/child difficulties
  • Speech/language delays
  • Trauma
CCPT is effective in twice-weekly or once-weekly formats for approximately 12 to 18 sessions. However, the length of therapy will differ depending on each individual child’s needs.

To schedule an appointment, please call North Valley Behavioral Health at (406) 862-1030.

How do I introduce my child to CCPT?

Prior to bringing your child to his/her first session, watch the following videos from the Child and Family Resource Clinic.

On your first visit to the play therapist’s office, read “My Special Playtime” by Dr. Misty Solt with your child in the waiting room. Your play therapist will provide this book when you arrive.

Play Therapy Considerations

  • Bring your child to session dressed in activewear.
  • Before bringing your child to the office, please ensure your child has eaten and used the restroom.
  • Remember that consistent attendance is important for successful outcomes.
  • Please remain in the waiting room during therapy times in case of an emergency for which your child may need you.
  • After your child’s session is over, please refrain from asking questions about the session. Instead say something like, “Hi, we can go home now.” Your play therapist will update you on play therapy progress during parent consultation meetings.
  • If you have questions or concerns about play therapy, please contact your play therapist to set up an appointment rather than speaking about your child in front of him/her.