What is Play Therapy?


Play is defined as an activity done for the sake of enjoyment rather than practical purpose.

When you hear of play therapy, you probably think of children. And that is with good reason because play therapy was originally developed or put into practice to aid child-adult communication in therapeutic environments.  Play in a therapeutic sense was first introduced by Sigmund Freud in 1909 and later developed into a full-fledged therapeutic approach by Melanie Klein, Hermine Hug-Hellmuth and Ana Freud.

Play therapy has since evolved and is now being implemented with adults too. Given the rise of smartphones, stress, the demands of our work lives and an inability to disconnect, the role of play therapy is more important than ever. Adults benefit from this modality by bringing them into a state of being – by participating in the given activity, the need for competition and validation goes out the window. The activity or game is simply done because it brings joy and pleasure. For instance, when was the last time you did something that brought you back to your childhood? It can be as simple as walking in the rain and remembering you loved to play in the rain. Or perhaps you loved collecting an item and displaying it all around the room. Most often we give up doing such things because they are “silly” or “childish.” But according to the research, “playing” has the power to reduce stress (Schaefer).

Doing an activity we thoroughly enjoy invites us to take fuller breaths and to stay in the moment, in turn relaxing our digestive system, slowing down our heart rate and blood pressure, and easing muscle tension.

Here some ideas to get you started:

  • Take that dancing lesson you keep putting off.
  • Sign up for that ceramics class.
  • Head downtown and rent a bicycle and enjoy the weather.
  • Spend time with the little ones in your family, bring cardboard boxes and build imaginary forts.
  • Reflect on your childhood and spend time doing those things you always enjoyed!

FSL implements some forms of play therapy across our Adult Day Health Services centers. By engaging our clients in crafts and woodworking, they regain their ability to feel purposeful and most importantly, joyful. Learn more about our activities here.

Cited works:

Schaefer, Charles E. (2003) Introduction: The Healing Potential of Adults at Play. In Play Therapy with Adults. (pp. 1-10).J Wiley.

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