Blog Posts

Structuring a Play Therapy Session

Every therapist structures their sessions differently. It’s really a personal choice made with the influence of external factors, such as theoretical orientation, agency requirements, and needs of the child and family. In this post, I’ll discuss the three most common ways that I structure my sessions.

Option One

  • 15 minutes directive play therapy
  • 30 minutes Child-Centered play therapy

For the example above, I begin with 15 minutes of directive play therapy. In the work that I do with my clients, I personally like to combine directive and non-directive play therapy. One of the primary reasons that I do this is because there are certain topics that are not addressed solely in non-directive play therapy. In the non-directive portion of my sessions, I work with clients on a multitude of topics including coping skills, triggers, bodily signs of anger/anxiety, identifying anxieties, social skills, attending to small details, communication skills, assertive communication, emotional identification, and more.

For the last 30 minutes, I engage in traditional Child-Centered play therapy (CCPT). I begin by giving the traditional opening for CCPT with my own spin:


“The rest of our time today will be our special play. During our special play time, you can do almost anything. You can say anything too. If there’s something you can’t do, I’ll let you know.”


I give my clients a 5 minute warning and a 1 minute warning in order to have a smooth transition out of the session.


Option Two

  • 15 minutes consultation with parents or caregivers
  • 30 minutes Child-Centered play therapy


In option two, I start with consulting with parents or caregivers for the first few minutes of the session. When working with children, there are many times in which it is necessary to speak parents or caregivers. Although it is necessary, I urge mental health professionals to set limits and boundaries with parents and caregivers regarding frequency and length of consultation. Similar to the first option, I finish the session with 30 minutes of CCPT.


Option Three

  • 30 minutes of Child-Centered play therapy


In the third and final option, I solely engage in 30 minutes of CCPT. At the agency where I work, this option is highly unusual. We run on a 45 minute hour so to speak and rarely have 30 minute slots. However, this option is the most typical of traditional CCPT.


Let me know how you structure your sessions!
Play on!



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