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  • Writer's pictureKate

What's the difference between play and play therapy?

A lot of times when I introduce myself as a "play therapist," I get one of a few reactions. A lot of people have heard about the therapeutic power of play therapy and are excited to meet someone who's a certified practitioner.

But for other people, depending on what their exposure to therapy and particularly child therapy has been, play therapy can sound a little unusual. I've gotten reactions such as "so you just ... watch kids play?" or "you just play with kids all day?," especially when people learn that play therapy is non-directive.

While an important component of play therapy is observing kids play and learning about their mental health based on what the therapist sees, there are some significant differences between therapeutic play and spontaneous, everyday play. The national Association for Play Therapy has defined standards for therapeutic play and has defined a specific credentialing protocol for therapists to fulfill to call themselves Registered Play Therapists. Play therapy is a specific, therapeutic, evidence-based model for helping children work through problems in their lives.

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