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School-Based Play Therapy



Providing individual and group play therapy in schools is a way to help mental health professionals address accessibility issues for children and families. Therapists can integrate non-directive and directive play therapy with students of all ages to address school-based issues like bullying and social skills, as well as dealing with personal issues beyond the school walls like dealing with divorcing parents.


The Association of Play Therapy provides a credential for mental health professionals to become a School-Based Registered Play Therapist, as an additional track for receiving consultation and support in integrating play therapy in schools.


There are several advantages and disadvantages to integrating play therapy into schools.


Advantages can include:

  • Group therapy can allow school therapists to see multiple children at a time, which can be helpful with high caseloads

  • Group therapy in schools allows children to find community with other children with similar experiences around issues like anxiety, anger management and other common issues

  • An ability to provide services to students who are unable to access them in the community

  • The opportunity to build relationships with children as they progress through the grades

  • Since kids are at school so much, school officials are often able to see mental health issues that caregivers may miss at home


Disadvantages can include:

  • Lack of space or toy materials to integrate play therapy sessions

  • Difficulty engaging caregivers in services

  • Teachers who worry play therapy is a "reward" when children are misbehaving. This requires psychoeducation for the teacher to understand the therapeutic benefits of play therapy used proactively and/or in the moment to help children cope


Play Therapy in Schools




Therapists could benefit from integrating several play therapy seminal theories into their individual and group play therapy sessions, along with some to support caregivers.


Play in the Classroom



Mental health professionals are encouraged to work with teachers to integrate play-based supports in the classroom to assist in regulation for both teachers and students. Suggestions can include:

  • Calm down corners that can include pillows, stuffed animals, calming music, fidgets and sensory bottles

  • Calming music/YouTube videos (calming fish tanks on YouTube are my favorite!)

  • Bean bags and targets for a safe aggression release, allowing the child to throw the bean bags at the target when dealing with angry feelings

  • Worry boxes can be used to allow students to write their worries down and place them in the box to assist with focus and attention

  • Fidget boxes with different "fidgets" like squishy balls, play-doh, stress balls, etc


Want to learn more about using play therapy in schools? Check out our upcoming webinar!



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