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My child has been referred for play therapy… Now what?

Children use play to express their wishes, desires, struggles and concerns. As children aren’t always aware of what they are feeling and they don’t often have the words to express these feelings, play is used as a medium of communication.

What is the process?

Psychologists can work in different manners. The discussion below relates to how Vicky Downing, our Educational Psychologist, works. The first appointment is for parents or caregivers to give a thorough background history of the child and discuss the current concerns which parents, caregivers or others may have regarding the child.

The first two sessions of play therapy take the form of a behavioural and emotional evaluation. Following this, as our psychologist prefers working holistically, parents or caregivers are asked to attend a feedback session so she can share findings and recommendations as well as provide parental guidance on various aspects when indicated. Why work holistically? The child spends more time in the “real” world than in the therapy room so providing parents with “tools”, which they can use to manage their child’s behaviour in other contexts, further supports the therapeutic process.

Following these first four sessions, play therapy may continue. Vicky Downing works from various modalities and selects the most appropriate according to the child’s needs, developmental stage and ways of interacting. Toys, boardgames and focused activities are specially selected to meet your child’s needs in the process. Therapy can be focused on a particular problem (such as assisting children in adjusting following a change in the family) or could cover a broader area of functioning, such as learning coping mechanisms to help the child cope with different anxiety-inducing situations. Where indicated, our psychologist likes to teach the child about their condition in an age-appropriate manner so they can understand why they may feel a certain way.

How many sessions will my child need?

Unfortunately, this answer can’t be given at the outset as it depends on the severity of the issues or conditions, the willingness of those close to the child to support the process, the child’s willingness to work with the process and other external events which occur outside the therapy room but which impact on the course of therapy, among other factors.

Does my child’s teacher have to know that he or she is attending play therapy?

It is your right as parent or caregiver to decide with whom to share this information. If you have a good relationship with your child’s teacher, it may be a good idea so that the teacher can support your child while at school. Our psychologist can give information regarding teacher support, depending on your child’s issues.

If you need more information or would like to make an appointment, contact Vicky Downing on: or 011 894-5655/ 084 474 7744.


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