Play Therapy

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Play Therapy at Red Cedar

Play is as important to human happiness and well-being as love and work.  Play is a fun, enjoyable activity that expands self-expression, self-knowledge, and self-efficacy. Play is the language of children, and often they communicate more during this time than in more traditional talk therapy. Play therapy can promote cognitive development, provide insight, and help resolve inner conflicts or dysfunctional thinking.

There is an extensive list of toys and games that the counselor may use to create an ideal play environment for children to open up and navigate their feelings. Some include:

  • Dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures
  • Puppets and masks
  • Role playing
  • Water and sandbox play
  • Building blocks and construction toys
  • Arts and crafts
  • Storytelling

During a play therapy session at Red Cedar Counseling, children are taken to a bright, safe, and comfortable playroom. There, they are given the freedom to choose any toy, game, or activity they want and are given the time to relax and have fun.

Throughout this time, our counselors observe each child’s interactions with their chosen toys or games. We may also gently guide them towards talking about certain topics and help them understand any problems they may express. Our play therapy counselors are here to help your child through emotions and behaviors that are difficult for young minds to process.

Play therapy with children is focused on helping them communicate their thoughts, express their feelings, navigate their emotions, and modify their behavior or response to certain situations. It also aims to help them develop problem-solving skills and learn how to deal with heavy or stressful issues.

Play therapy can help children and parents reduce anxiety and stress. This type of therapy can help resolve kids’ behavioral issues rooted in anxiety and emotions, like tantrums, defiance, and symptoms of ADHD.

Play therapy can help with a wide range of developmental disorders in both children and adults. Some of these include:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Learning delay or disabilities

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy focuses on helping young patients navigate emotional and behavior challenges in their lives.  This type of therapy involves observing patients play with different types of toys or games, and encouraging them to play and speak freely. Red Cedar Counseling offers non-directive play therapy. While therapists may gently guide young clients in playing, they do not specify the games or toys they play with.  We prefer to let them choose whichever game or toy catches their eye. This freedom to choose helps children feel more comfortable and open towards speaking with our therapists.

Under the guidance of a licensed child therapist, play therapy can help children resolve underlying emotional issues. Our caring counselors for play counseling understand that developing minds are learning to process their feelings and often need guidance on how to act on those feelings. To learn more about the child therapy services offered here at Red Cedar Counseling, feel free to call us at any time. Schedule an appointment with our compassionate child counselors today and see the difference it can make for your child.

Play Therapy Treatment

Play Therapy Treatment

Play therapy refers to many treatment methods that all apply the therapeutic benefits of play that builds on the natural way children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world. While it may look the same as regular play at times, play therapy is a structured, theoretically based approach that helps children express what is troubling them, develop adaptive behaviors and problem-solving skills, and learn how to express their feelings and to communicate and relate with others.

Often, children have used up their own problem-solving tools, and misbehave or act out at home or school.  Play provides children with a safe psychological distance from their problems and facilitates developmentally appropriate expressions of thoughts and feelings. We use play therapy to assess and understand children’s play.  Through play, therapists develop positive relationships with children and provide corrective emotional experiences necessary for healing.

We also work to help children cope with difficult emotions and learn to find solutions to problems.  By confronting problems in the clinical play therapy setting, children find healthier solutions.  Play therapy helps children change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve concerns.

Session Duration

Session Duration

Sessions vary, but take 40-50 minutes and are usually held weekly.  Research suggests it takes an average of 20 play therapy sessions to resolve problems of children referred for treatment.  Some children improve much faster, but serious or ongoing problems may take longer to resolve (Landreth, 2002; Carmichael, 2006).

Family Involvement

Family Involvement

Interaction between children’s problems and families can be complex – children’s behavior can signal problems in the family or an entire family may become distressed because the child’s problems are so disruptive.  Children and families heal faster when they work together.

The play therapist will communicate regularly with caretakers to develop plans for resolving problems and monitor progress.  Our therapists make decisions about how to involve the family in therapy based on assessment of family dynamics and characteristics. This may involve parents or caretakers directly in treatment when appropriate.  Whatever the level, family member involvement is essential to healing.



Play therapy can be used to treat clients of all ages, but is especially appropriate for children 3-12 year old. Children dealing with anxiety, ADHD, depression, family stressors, problems with peer relationships, histories of abuse or neglect can all experience benefit from play therapy. While these are not the only struggles that play therapy can help with, they are some of the most common.

Areas Play Therapy Can Help With

Among the many types of child therapy, play therapy is among the most flexible, useful, and effective methods of counseling for kids. Providing an environment where children are allowed to freely play and talk can help with emotional healing. Children with behavioral obstacles often benefit from play therapy as a way to find triggers to their behavior and learn how to cope with those triggers differently.

This type of counseling for children can help them find the words to express their emotions and find solutions to barriers they experience during play time. By having the freedom to play without too much direction, children often find the solutions they need to these barriers on their own, encouraging growth and development.

mural in play therapy room at Lansing office

Common signs that a child may need to talk with a child counselor include:

Engaging in power struggles at home, at school, or with groups of friends, refusing to take responsibility for behaviors/accusing others of being responsible for their actions, lashing out or isolating themselves after a divorce of the loss of a family member, excess worrying and anxiety, lack of motivation in school or to go and play with friends, and struggling to enjoy things that they used to love.

Benefits of Play Therapy

Play therapy for kids is an amazing way to provide professional counseling services to young minds. The relaxed and familiar atmosphere allows them to express their deepest feelings and emotions. With the help of Red Cedar’s counselors, they can gain a better understanding of their thoughts and true self without judgement.

Play therapy with children can help them with:

  • Taking more responsibility for their actions and behaviors
  • Developing problem-solving skills and creative solutions
  • Learning coping strategies to reduce anxiety
  • Developing self-acceptance & self-efficacy
  • Harnessing confidence about their abilities
  • Learning to experience, identify, and express emotions
  • Cultivating empathy for thoughts and feelings of others
  • Lifting their limitations on expression
  • Developing social skills and relational skills with family and peers
  • Improving their relationships, respect, and empathy for others
  • Training their motor skills
  • Addressing aggressive behavior
  • Improving eating habits

What to Expect from Play Therapy Sessions

Before we begin play therapy with children at Red Cedar Counseling, we perform an intake assessment for each patient. The information we gather here can help us gain crucial background information about our patient’s health, past behavior, family history, and more. After this, we conduct a pre-therapy session. Pre-therapy helps us determine each patient’s development levels — such as cognitive, social, emotional, behavior, and communication.

We form our treatment goals after the pre-therapy. During this stage, we work together with parents in identifying long-term and short-term goals. The goals we determine would help our counselors in guiding the conversation and assessing improvements. Then we begin the observation of play trends in our patients. We also make sure to observe any changes in mood or behavior when playing. This helps us understand the children better and offer the right guidance. We base our treatment plans on the observations we make. These observations also help our counselors determine which moods and behaviors to engage more for better counseling results.

Play Therapy and Play Counseling with Red Cedar Counseling

Therapy and your privacy

The therapists at Red Cedar Counseling respect your privacy. The information shared in a therapy session is strictly confidential. The relationship between the counselor and the family is based on trust, compassion, and respect, so that each individual feels comfortable in the therapy environment.

​To learn more about family therapy and to talk with a professional counselor in the Lansing, Michigan area, contact Red Cedar Counseling today.

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Play Therapy and Play Counseling at Red Cedar Counseling

Play Therapy at Red Cedar Counseling

Red Cedar Counseling offers professional play therapy for kids in the Lansing, Michigan area. If you have any questions or clarifications, we urge you to contact us. Our experienced counselors are committed to providing compassionate and non-judgmental therapy services to anyone who may need it. Call us today at (517) 301-5011 to learn more about how play therapy sessions may help you or your child or to schedule an appointment.

For more information on play therapy and child therapy, or to talk with the child and family therapists at Red Cedar Counseling, contact us below. We offer play counseling and child therapy in the Lansing, MI area as well as online.

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