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In play therapy, toys are the child’s words, and play is the child’s language. Therapists strategically use play to help children express what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings.

Formally, the Association for Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."

Play therapy is a structured, theoretically based approach to expressive therapy that builds on the normal communicative and learning processes of children and has been shown to help them
•    Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
•    Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
•    Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.
•    Learn to experience and express emotion.
•    Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.
Play therapy can also be used effectively with some teenagers and adults to optimize learning, enhance relationships, improve health, and enhance social well-being.


Mental health professionals can add a set of skills to their repertoire that improves care for children and adults without the ability to verbally express their thoughts and feelings.

UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies is an APT Approved Provider of play therapy continuing education. APT Approved Provider: 98-046

Target Audience

Licensed therapists, therapist interns, and allied health professionals who work with children, adolescents, and their families.

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