Doing Play Therapy: From Building the Relationship to Facilitating Change


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Covering the process of therapy from beginning to end, this engaging text helps students and practitioners use play confidently and effectively with children, adolescents, and adults struggling with emotional or behavioural problems or life challenges. With an accessible theory-to-practice focus, the book explains the basics of different play therapy approaches and invites readers to reflect on and develop their own clinical style. It is filled with rich case material and specific examples of play techniques and strategies. The expert authors provide steps for building strong relationships with clients; exploring their clinical issues and underlying dynamics; developing and working toward clear treatment goals; and collaborating with parents and teachers. A chapter on common challenges offers insightful guidance for navigating difficult situations in the playroom.

This title is part of the Creative Arts and Play Therapy Series, edited by Cathy A. Malchiodi and David A. Crenshaw.


  • Prelude: Once Upon a Time . . .
  • 1. An Introduction to Play Therapy
  • Interlude 1: Show Up and Choose To Be Present
  • 2. Pick a Theory, Any Theory
  • Interlude 2: Showing Interest
  • 3. Broad Play Therapy Strategies
  • Interlude 3: Being Intentional and Making Stuff Up
  • 4. Building a Relationship
  • Interlude 4: Take a Breath
  • 5. Exploring Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Dynamics
  • Interlude 5: Developing a Conceptualization of Your Clients
  • 6. Helping Clients Gain Insight
  • Interlude 6: Language Choice
  • 7. Helping Clients Make Changes in Play Therapy
  • Interlude 7: Giving Yourself Permission
  • 8. Working with Parents, Teachers, and Families
  • Interlude 8: Avoiding Judgment
  • 9. Challenging Situations in the Playroom
  • Interlude 9: Continuing the Journey
  • Interlude 10: Not the End
  • Appendix A. Theory and Play Therapy Resources
  • Appendix B. Children’s Books
  • Appendix C. Professional Information
  • References
  • Index

Author Bio:

Terry Kottman, PhD, NCC, RPT-S, LMHC, founded The Encouragement Zone, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she provides play therapy training and supervision, life coaching, counseling, and “playshops” for women. Dr. Kottman developed Adlerian play therapy, an approach to working with children, families, and adults that combines the ideas and techniques of individual psychology and play therapy. She writes about play therapy and regularly presents workshops nationally and internationally. She is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Play Therapy and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Iowa Association for Play Therapy.

Kristin K. Meany-Walen, PhD, LMHC, RPT-S, is Assistant Professor of Counseling at the University of North Texas. She was previously in private practice, where she worked with a variety of clients who reinforced her belief in the significance of play and creative expression. Dr. Meany-Walen regularly publishes and presents on play therapy with children and adolescents. She conducted the first Adlerian play therapy study, which was instrumental in Adlerian play therapy becoming recognized as an evidence-based treatment for reducing behavioural problems in children.


“A fresh, relevant guide to play therapy that speaks to play therapists-in-training and has hidden gems for those of us with more experience. This volume broadens the traditional view of play therapy to encompass multiple modalities, and to include adolescents and adults as well as children. Unique interludes throughout the book help the reader become more reflective and integrate personal and professional growth. Kottman and Meany-Walen tackle some of the tougher questions in play therapy regarding interpretation, questioning, and insight, among many other complicated issues. The book is filled with activities and resources to help play therapists at any level improve their everyday practice.” – Dee C. Ray, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, RPT-S, Director, Center for Play Therapy, and Professor, Counseling Program, University of North Texas

“I wish this text had been available when I was taking play therapy courses, and I am deeply grateful for it now that I am teaching them! The authors clearly explain theory and techniques and show the reader how to develop a personal style that flows naturally from a solid theoretical base. Their informal writing style makes complex ideas accessible, and the case studies are relevant and applicable. The book will give play therapy students a solid grasp of practice and will help seasoned professionals sharpen their skills and deepen their understanding. I plan to use this text both personally and in my classes.” – —Jeffrey S. Ashby, PhD, ABPP, RPT-S, Department of Counseling and Psychological Services, Georgia State University