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Understanding the role of Play Therapy for kids at Safe House


 What is play therapy?

Play therapy is a form of counselling that therapeutically engages the power of play to connect with and help children, to stimulate optimal integration and individualisation. Children will engage in play behaviour in order to work through their interior obstructions and anxieties without realising it.

“In Play Therapy, toys are like the child’s words and play is the child’s language.”

(Gary Landreth)

Children who are exposed to domestic violence often blame themselves for not being able to protect their mother or not reacting appropriately.  These children need to learn how to self-nurture because this integrates the different forms of the self, whether it is their good traits or traits which still need development.

Play therapy helps children to nurture themselves and also to forgive themselves.

Play Therapy’s main goal is to strengthen the child’s inner support structure.  This is done by sessions with the child and is fundamental to the child’s ability to work through deep-seated, blocked emotions (Oaklander, V. 1997:292).

Kids at Safe House play therapy

Our social worker and kids at Safe House.

When the child witnesses abuse or endures the abuse herself, it can cause long lasting emotional trauma, which can, when not addressed correctly, have lasting effects until adulthood.

 Abuse has the ability to take away the sense of safety and also trust in others.

It is therefore important that a therapeutic relationship forms between the social worker and child, and that the child can answer yes to these critical questions:

  • Am I Safe?
  • Will I be able to handle this?
  • Will I be accepted?

During the therapeutic relationship building progress, the child is assessed.  Assessment is done in sync with interviews with the biological mother to form a clear understanding of the child’s needs.

You can watch this video of a mock play therapy session to gain some more insight into this valuable means of counselling.



For a child to strengthen their inner support structure it is important to focus on contact-making and building self-support.  Focus is placed on how the child makes contact with others, and how much of the real self the child is able to show to the world.

Emotional expression is a part of play therapy. It is during these sessions that the child comes into contact with unexpressed emotions.  This phase is especially important when working with children that have been through abuse, because the child learns how to express aggressive energy in a healthy manner.

When a sound therapeutic relationship has formed with the social worker, the areas that need development are addressed by using numerous forms of play interventions:

–         Drawings and clay modelling

–         Graphic family portrayal

–         The use of animal cards

–         Fantasy techniques

–         Sand play

–         Stories

Play therapy uses a variety of techniques that provide an opportunity for the child to communicate emotions, feelings, experiences and behaviour. Therapists use the responses in play to intervene and to heal.


Play therapy at Safe House


We are happy to report that the children at Safe House look forward to their counselling sessions in the Play Therapy Room. They experience the Play Therapy Room as a safe area which reassures and encourages them to contribute, thus leading to an increase in the successful completion of the programme.

The mothers say that they can see an improvement in their children’s behaviour as they become less fearful and anxious. Through Play Therapy children can now deal with their traumatic experiences, and their heart-breaking point of views are altered so that they can become children again.


If you would like to become involved in Safe House by donating, volunteering or making a monthly contribution, we’d love to hear from you.



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