Play Therapy

Using the power of play to guide children through their struggles in a way they understand.

Play Therapy Can Help Your Child:

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Express their emotions in a way that makes sense to them
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Understand how they are feeling and why
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Strengthen their sense of security
Play Therapy Edmonton

Children experience frustration, anxiety, and stress too.

Children often struggle to effectively communicate their feelings and to understand why they are having them in the first place.

As a parent, it can be hard to watch your child grapple with emotional and behavioural challenges. You’re searching for a way to help them, a way to understand what they’re going through, and a means to help them thrive in their daily life.

We can help your child in ways that feel most natural to them.

Play therapy in Edmonton

We support you and your child with:

What is play therapy?

Play therapy provides children with the opportunity to explore and heal in a way that feels natural and safe, and that allows them to distance themselves from events that are most difficult for them.

Because play is the primary way that children learn about the world and express their thoughts and feelings, they naturally turn to play when they are overwhelmed. Play provides children with emotional safety, which allows them to describe their experiences, try on new roles and perspectives, express their feelings and inner conflicts, and gain mastery over their fears and anxiety.

When children experience upsetting events or life changes, play also becomes an important part of helping them work through what has happened. Directed play activities can help children develop and practice more effective social skills, coping strategies, frustration tolerance, and problem-solving skills.

In play therapy, children learn:

Types of Play Therapy

Several modalities of play therapy are available depending on your child’s age and needs:

Synergetic Play Therapy is a child-centered approach that is informed by research on stress responses and recovery in the nervous system, interpersonal neurobiology, attachment, and mindfulness. When children are struggling with emotions and behaviour, their body’s stress response system can go into overdrive or shut down in a collapse state. Through working in the metaphor of play and in attunement with their psychologist, children have the opportunity to express and co-regulate uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that they would not have been able to move towards as easily on their own.

Click here for more information on Synergetic Play Therapy.

A secure attachment between children and caregivers has been repeatedly shown to be an important foundation for positive child development outcomes. Theraplay is a parent-child dyad therapy where one or both parents come into session with their child to participate in interactive games and activities that help to create resiliency and promote secure attachments. These activities are playful and aim to provide structure, challenge, engagement, and nurture/care. Parents learn to play with their children in a way that supports emotional safety, regulation, and self-esteem. Theraplay activities can be especially helpful when parent-child relationships have been strained or interrupted in some way (e.g., parent separation or children in foster placements).

Sand tray therapy is a hands-on and creative approach to therapy where children and teens use a variety of miniature figures and objects in a sand tray and create scenes that reflect aspects of their inner and outer world. The sand tray may be used in directive and non-directive ways to help increase children’s expression of their thoughts, feelings, and memories. This approach is particularly helpful for children and teens who may have a hard time verbalizing past and present struggles.

Cognitive-behavioural play therapy integrates play activities with cognitive and behavioural therapies so that it is developmentally suited for younger children. This approach is directive and educational. Play materials are chosen and used to recreate a child’s struggle in safe ways, as well as to promote understanding, model adaptive ways of thinking, and teach healthy problem-solving and coping skills.

“Enter into children’s play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts and souls meet.” – Virginia Axline

See our Play Therapy Area

Who We Are

Why J. Gordon Psychology Group

We believe therapy is part of living a healthy life; you don’t have to be in crisis or facing an emergency to seek support. Our practice is built on long-term connections, and we walk with you as you navigate the different phases and challenges in your life.

While working with children and adolescents is what we’re best known for, we extend our specialized assessment and therapeutic support services to parents, adults, and couples who are on their own path to healing and living a life they love.

We provide therapy that is

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Strengths-based

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Compassionate

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Collaborative

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Evidence-based

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Relationship-focused

Therapists who offer Play Therapy

our approach

How Our Play Therapy Works

We learn your story and areas of concern

In our first session, we learn about your child’s developmental history, family dynamics, and specific challenges. We will explain the process in detail and answer any questions you have.

We begin play therapy sessions

During subsequent sessions, your child is given access to a variety of play materials. We observe and interact while they play, helping them to express their emotions and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

We evaluate and involve parents

We discuss their progress with you throughout the play therapy process and offer guidance on how to support your child at home.

In session, specific activities will differ depending on your child and their presenting strengths and difficulties. Your child will have the opportunity to direct and lead their play process. As well, your child will engage in structured and directive activities to help them learn and practice new skills or to help them understand their life experiences better.

Questions about play therapy

Play is the natural language of children. Often, the hard things in life lack words, and play allows for them to be expressed and processed in an emotionally safe way. The play therapy relationship with the therapist is also important in that it communicates an unconditional positive regard and safety, which is therapeutic.

Play therapy can benefit children of all ages, though it’s most commonly used with those aged 3–12. It can be particularly beneficial for children experiencing a wide range of concerns, including behavioural struggles, anxiety, depression, trauma, loss or grief, and developmental or learning difficulties.

Play therapy can look similar to your child’s daily play but in play therapy, we identify patterns and themes in play to help learn about a child’s world view, strengths, struggles, etc. During sessions, we co-facilitate play to role-play problem solving or coping skills, help them learn new perspectives, process stressful or confusing emotions, or shift negative beliefs.

Play therapy can be a powerful tool when facilitated by fully trained mental health practitioners. It’s helpful for children to process and heal in emotionally safe and developmentally appropriate ways.

Typically ages 3-12 but many teens also love to express themselves through art, role-play, and sandtray. Thus, we often integrate play therapy with talk therapy for teens.

Your involvement is key to your child’s success in therapy. We will provide guidance on how you can support your child in between sessions, which may involve creating a consistent and supportive environment at home, encouraging open communication, and reinforcing the skills and strategies your child learns in therapy.

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What you can expect

For young children (under age 5) we may do shorter (30-minute) sessions more frequently (weekly) to work within their attention span and play capacity.

Some children come a few times or intermittently to complete wellness check-ins, while others will come in for ongoing support as they grow.

Some will come frequently but for only a short amount of time (e.g., to help them adjust during life transitions such as parent separation or to ease anxiety before an upcoming school year).

As your child continues in play therapy, you may notice that they:

Get In Touch

How To Get Started

Send An Inquiry

If you’re looking to get started with J. Gordon Psychology Group, get in touch! You can email, call or submit a message using our contact form.

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780-938-4473

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Play Therapy in Edmonton

J. Gordon Psychology Group

When your child is experiencing big feelings, play therapy can help make sense of them

Help your child navigate uncertain situations, overcome worry, and build courage.

written by Dr. Jennifer Gordon