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Play Therapy vs. Traditional Talk Therapy: Which Is Right for Your Child

When it comes to helping children navigate their emotions and challenges, therapy can be a valuable resource. However, parents often face a significant decision: choosing between traditional talk therapy and the more innovative approach of play therapy. Each has its merits, but which fits your child best?

In this blog post, we'll explore the differences between play therapy and traditional talk therapy, offering insights to help you make an informed choice.

Traditional Talk Therapy: A Closer Look

Traditional talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counseling, is the more conventional approach to therapy. It typically involves a child engaging in conversation with a trained therapist. Here's what you need to know:

1. Verbal Communication

Talk therapy relies heavily on verbal communication. Children express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns through words, facilitating self-awareness and emotional expression.

2. Cognitive Exploration

Therapists often employ cognitive techniques to help children understand and manage their emotions. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns. Traditional talk therapy is suitable for adolescents and older children who have developed strong verbal communication skills and the ability to engage in abstract thinking.

Play Therapy: A Creative Approach

Play therapy is a therapeutic approach specifically designed for children and adults, acknowledging their natural inclination for play.

Here's what sets it apart:

1. Non-verbal communication

Play therapy recognizes that not everyone can effectively communicate their feelings through words alone. Play provides a non-verbal avenue for expression, allowing children or teenagers to convey complex emotions in a safe, judgment-free zone.

2. Develop Emotional Intelligence

Children engage in various play activities, such as drawing, storytelling, and role-playing, to explore and express their emotions. This helps them develop emotional intelligence. Play therapy is ideal for children who may not have fully developed verbal skills or who struggle to express themselves verbally.

Choosing the Right Approach

Selecting between play therapy and traditional talk therapy depends on your child's age, developmental stage, and communication style.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Communication Style: Does your child express themselves better through play or words? Consider their preferred mode of communication.

  • Therapist's Expertise: Consult with a therapist who specializes in the chosen approach to ensure a tailored and effective experience.

Both play therapy and traditional talk therapy have their unique strengths. The key is to choose the approach that aligns with your child's needs, ensuring they receive the support and guidance necessary for their emotional growth and well-being.

Do you think your Teen or Child could benefit from therapy? Speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your Teen or Child could benefit from play therapy, Click here to get in touch today, or if you want to know if Play Therapy could be suitable for your Teen or Child, click here to take our quiz!


  • Corey, G. (2019). "Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy." Cengage Learning.

  • Kazdin, A. E. (2011). "Parent Management Training: Treatment for Oppositional, Aggressive, and Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents." Oxford University Press.

  • Weisz, J. R., & Kazdin, A. E. (2017). "Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Children and Adolescents." Guilford Publications.

  • Bratton, S. C., Ray, D., Rhine, T., & Jones, L. (2005). "The Efficacy of Play Therapy with Children: A Meta-Analytic Review of Treatment Outcomes." Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

  • Guerney Jr, B. G. (2000). "Child-centered Play Therapy." Wiley.

  • O'Connor, K. J., & Schaefer, C. E. (1983). "Handbook of Play Therapy." Wiley.

  • Ray, D. C., Armstrong, S. A., Balkin, R. S., & Jayne, K. M. (2015). "Preschoolers' Language Acquisition and Collaborative Storytelling Through Participation in Play-Based Storytelling Activities." Early Childhood Education Journal.

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