Play Therapy

I believe that play therapy is a powerful tool when working with children and their families.  Within the therapy process, I often utilize play therapy to allow children to express themselves and manage their emotions in healthy ways, and to offer parents helpful tools for understanding their child's world.

Why play therapy?

Have you ever noticed how children instinctively know how to play?  That is because play is a child's language and toys are their words.  Children communicate their thoughts, feelings, wishes and struggles, through various types of play.  When a child is playing, a child is at work: at work discovering the world, and discovering themselves.


Play not only aids children in developing their full potential, but is the medium through which children work through difficult experiences.  When working with children, I am committed to a particular model of play therapy called Child-Centered Play Therapy, because this model:

  • accepts children as they are and thus creates a safe environment for them to explore their thoughts and feelings
  • gives children permission to express themselves with freedom and honesty
  • helps children develop their own ability to solve problems, take responsibility for their actions and make thoughtful choices
  • models setting limits to increase the child's awareness of his/her decisions and actions

Where do we start?

When I begin working with your child, I like to spend a few sessions getting to know your child and your family.


First, I like to meet with the parent(s) first before meeting with the child(ren).  During this time, I want you as parents to get to know me as someone you can trust to work with your children.  I also like to share about the therapy process and the Child-Centered Play Therapy model.  I appreciate the opportunity to learn about your family from your perspective, and I also want to be available to answer any questions about myself or the work we will do together.


After the parent session, I like to meet with parent(s) and child(ren) together.  A family meeting is oftentimes a comfortable way for children to meet me for the first time.  During our family session, I like to get to know your family as a whole, and we can discuss what changes we would all like to see in the family.  


Finally, I will take some time to get to know your child(ren).  When I meet with your child individually, I have a few activities I do to get to know him/her, and then I leave time for your child to explore the playroom.  Often, parents tell their children that they get to have some playtime with me and that there are no expectations for what they do or say during this time.


Once we've spent a few sessions together, I will meet again with the parent(s) to share my feedback.  I will offer my impressions and observations of your child thus far, as well as give my recommendations and suggestions for how to move forward with therapy.


Does my child need play therapy?

Here are a few of the situations that children (generally ages 11 and younger) face when starting play therapy:

  • Anxiety (Difficulty leaving parent(s), being fearful of certain situations, excessive worry, etc.)
  • Trauma (Abuse, neglect, frightening experiences, etc.)
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Difficulties with peers at school or siblings at home
  • Difficulties due to parents' divorce/separation
  • Depression (Withdrawn, lack of energy and motivation, prolonged sadness, etc.)
  • Defiance (Stubborn, unresponsive to discipline, etc.)
  • Grief and loss (Death, loss of an important relationship, moving, etc.)

Rooted & Grounded


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The Power of Parenting During the COVID-19 Pandemic

National Child Traumatic Stress Network


"This handout provides caregivers guidance about how to address fears and feelings of prior losses that are coming up during COVID-19. This fact sheet offers information on loss and trauma reminders, coping with separation, and the mind body connection."


Alair Olson, M.A.

 Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist



South Mission Valley | San Diego, CA  

858.634.0302 |