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50 Behavioral Terms to Use in Child Therapy

As I discussed in my previous post How to Write Play Therapy Notes, it personally took me months in collaboration with my supervisors in order to come up with an effective way for me to write play therapy notes at my clinic.

One of the biggest things that held me back initially was that I was not integrating “behavioral terms” into my play therapy notes.

It makes sense, right?! Theoretically, child-centered play therapy (CCPT) is completely opposite of behavioral therapy!

However, my clinic and the governing agencies wanted me to include behavioral terms.

At first I was really confused and resistant. I felt like I was CCPT to my core (I still do!) and wanted to “fight the man!” When I really thought about it though, there are plenty of behavioral terms that accurately describe the work that is being done in play therapy!

For example, let’s take the term “emotional identification.” By reflecting the child’s feelings, we are in turn teaching the emotional identification and expanding their emotional vocabulary!

I created a list of behavioral terms that I keep right next to my desk to assist me with notes. Below is my entire list!

For play therapy notes, I typically use the terms “emotional identification,” “labeling feelings in self,” “labeling feelings in others,” and “problem solving.” That being said, it is also common for me to additionally use “limits and boundaries” and “self-esteem.”

Feelings identification 

Communication strategies

Coping skills 


Identifying Triggers


Increasing positive interactions with others

Sharing and taking turns 

Label feelings in self

Label feelings in other 

Assertive communication 

Conflict resolution skills 

Limits and boundaries 


Social interactions 


Ability to focus

Attend to small details 

Increasing attention span 

Developing awareness 

Increasing concentration 

Perspectives taking 

Negotiation skills 

Increasing awareness 

Increasing frustration tolerance 

Delayed gratification 

Conflict resolution 



Appropriate expression of anger

Differentiating emotional states 

Thought stopping 

Thought replacement 

Positive self-talk 

Alternative ways to release anger appropriately

Identifying personal anger style 

Increasing awareness of gradients of emotion 

Adaptive responses

Processing events 

Relaxation skills 

Identifying harmful behavior 

Linking feelings to behavior 


Cognitive strategies 

Social skills 


Identifying physiological components of feelings 

Reality testing


Are there other behavioral terms that you use in your notes? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, Play On!



2 thoughts on “50 Behavioral Terms to Use in Child Therapy

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