Ep. 162: Can Play Therapy Help My Child? with Cathi Spooner, LCSW, RPT-S

Dec 5, 2023 | 0 comments

Today, we’re answering the question, “Can play therapy help my child?” But first, we need to understand what play therapy is and what it is not.

Our guest, Cathi Spooner shares insights on helping children navigate complex emotions through play therapy. And there’s a lot to talk about! We’ve had several episodes discussing different treatment modalities and information about ways we can provide social and emotional support to our children and adolescents. Play therapy might be the right fit for your child and your family. Listen to find out how Cathi has used play therapy to support children and adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, divorce and separation, attachment issues, self-regulation issues, and grief and loss. 


Show Notes:

[2:56] – Play therapy is about helping children access the therapeutic powers of play through a specific therapy modality. It’s grounded in a theoretical model.

[4:32] – Play is the language of children.

[5:13] – It is more than just pulling out games and toys.

[6:29] – To an outsider looking in, it looks like the counselor or therapist is just playing. But they know how to use play to work through emotions.

[7:36] – Children naturally work things out and make sense of the world through play.

[10:43] – Cathi describes the types of toys and games in a play therapy room.

[12:36] – Anger and aggression are normal emotions and parents tend to want to avoid them.

[15:12] – Play gives therapists a way to see what’s going on underneath a child’s behavior.

[17:32] – Children need parents to be able to co-regulate emotions.

[19:31] – Children can’t be the ones responsible for learning how to regulate their emotions.

[22:02] – One key is to empower parents to continue this work at home outside of the therapy room.

[24:22] – Parents need support and guidance on how to help their children.

[28:20] – If parents don’t trust the therapist, they will not be able to feel comfortable and confident in being the parent they want to be.

[31:26] – Expressive art is an amazing modality to incorporate into play therapy to show children other ways to work through and make sense of things without verbally articulating.

[33:14] – When we’re in distress, making sense of things is challenging. Play makes it more accessible.


About Our Guest:

Cathi Spooner is an LCSW and RPT-S. She has worked with children, adolescents and their families since 1982 in a variety of capacities including therapeutic recreation, teaching special education for children with emotional and learning difficulties, residential mental health treatment programs, substance abuse treatment, and outpatient psychotherapy. Her expertise includes working with children, adolescents and families experiencing trauma and attachment issues as well as depression, anxiety, grief & loss, behavior problems, court-involved youth, homeless populations, ADHD, foster care and adoption issues, parental separation and divorce, and school problems.  Cathi has conducted numerous professional play therapy training sessions at the local, state, national, and international level. Her Play Therapy Academy program prepares child and adolescent therapists to become play therapists. She is the author of Attachment-Focused Family Play Therapy: An Intervention for Children and Adolescents After Trauma (Routledge).


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.