Dr. Courtney Knapp

Child & Adolescent Psychologist Serving Orange County, California

Principles of Play Therapy

There are eight principles of play therapy derived from Garry Landreth and Virginia Axline.  These are things I like to keep in mind when using play therapy, but I also think about how each client may need something different and allow for that flexibility.  The eight principles are:

  1. The therapist is genuinely interested in the child and develops a warm, caring relationship
  2. The therapist experiences unqualified acceptance of the child and does not wish that the child were different in some way
  3. The therapist creates a feeling of safety and permissiveness in the relationship so the child feels free to explore and express self completely
  4. The therapist is always sensitive to the child’s feelings and gently reflects those feelings in such a way that the child develops self understanding
  5. The therapist believes deeply in the child’s capacity to act responsible, unwaveringly respects the child’s ability to solve personal problems, and allows the child to do so
  6. The therapist trusts the child’s inner direction, allows the child to lead in all areas of the relationship and resists any urge to direct the child’s play or conversation
  7. The therapist appreciates the gradual nature of the therapeutic process and does not attempt to hurry the process
  8. The therapist establishes only those therapeutic limits which help the child accept personal and appropriate relationship responsibility

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