How to Start a Play Therapy Case

how to start a play therapy case

ARGGHH!  So, you’re a therapist that just got assigned your first case with a child.  You’ve learned about play therapy and plan on continuing to get training to become a Registered Play Therapist … but you have NO IDEA on where to begin.  Here’s …

How to Start a Play Therapy Case

  1. Meet with the Parent(s )FIRST! … without the child present in order to establish a relationship with the parent(s) and get a background on the child and presenting issue.  Obtaining this info in front of the child can be extremely hard on the child … and not the way you want to begin your therapeutic relationship.

    A. Discuss why they made the call to begin treatment.

    B. Discuss the history of the problem.

    1. When did it start?

    2. What things happened around that time?

    3. What have you tried so far?

    4. Is there anytime it gets better?

C. Ask about pregnancy, delivery, infancy, and developmental milestones.

D. Ask about their family structure, who lives at the home(s) and daily routine.

E. Ask what their expectation are of therapy.

F. Explain Play Therapy and answer any questions.

G. Discuss explaining therapy to the child.

H. Discuss therapy contract, confidentiality, and how to contact/communicate with therapist

Depending on the presenting issue, the therapist would then schedule…

  1. Family Play Observation

  2. School Observation

  3. Phone Consultation with pediatrician, psychiatrist, and/or any specialists

  4. Meeting or phone conversation with additional parent(s)

  5. Set up psychological testing

 When those steps are complete … or found unnecessary for the case, the therapist would set up the:

  1. First Meeting with the Child

    A. Introduce your self and the play room – “ Hi, (child’s name), I’m Laura and this is a special place where you can do almost anything you want. If there is something you can’t do I’ll let you know.” (VanFleet’s intro words!)

    B. House-Tree-Person and family drawing (great ice-breaker AND assessment tool)

    C. Child Centered Play

    D. Introduce Leaving Ritual (I use my 3 Transition Jars)

In the next several meetings with the child, I may stick with child-centered play therapy or use directive activities.  If using directive activities, I first focus on self-awareness, family constellation, feeling awareness, and the presenting issue.  From there I develop a treatment plan together with the parents and child.

Good luck!  And have fun!

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Laura Hutchison

Laura Hutchison (aka PlayDrMom) is a chubby kid turned competitive figure skater tween turned high school pom pon girl turned MSU Spartan turned grad student turned Mrs. HutcH turned Dr. turned Mom. She adores living in the Mitten, is addicted to Diet Coke, and firmly believes that ice cream is a main food group.

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  1. Amy Cruz

    Hi Laura!

    I am a current graduate student and I was so excited when I saw you are involved with play therapy!

    Would you be open to chatting a bit or exchanging a few emails?
    Would love to pick your brain a bit 🙂


  2. Laura Hutchison

    Of course, Amy! I’ve love to chat with you. My email is

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