Play Therapy vs Psychology

When it comes to addressing psychological and emotional challenges, there isn’t a ‘on size fits all’ approach. While traditional talk therapy has been the standard for many years, play therapy has emerged as an alternative method, particularly for children. Let’s dive into the differences between play therapy and traditional psychology, helping you understand which approach might be the most suitable for you needs or those of your child.

Traditional Psychology

  1. Verbal communication.
    Traditional psychology relies heavily on verbal communication. The therapist and client engage in dialogue to discuss thoughts, emotions and experiences.
  2. Cognitive Focus.
    Traditional therapy often concentrates on cognitive processes, exploring how thoughts and beliefs influence emotions and behaviours. Techniques like cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) are commonly used.
  3. Ages and Populations.
    Traditional psychology is typically used with older children, adolescents, and adults.
  4. Problem Solving.
    Clients in traditional psychology sessions are encouraged to analyse their problems and develop rational solutions through discussion and insight.
  5. Therapist’s Role.
    Therapists in traditional psychology typically take a more active role, guiding the conversation, and using specific techniques to address concerns.

Play Therapy

  1. Non verbal focus.
    Play therapy relies on non-verbal communication. Instead of talking, children express themselves through play, using your, art, and other creative methods
  2. Emotional Focus,
    Play therapy emphasises emotional expression and exploration. It allows children to access and process feelings that they may not yet be able to articulate.
  3. Child Centered.
    Play therapy is specifically designed for children, and it’s adaptable to various age groups and developmental stages. Child-centered play therapy is particularly useful for younger children who may not have the vocabulary to talk about their emotions.
  4. Emotional Release.
    Play therapy provides a space for children to release emotions in a safe and controlled environment, often leading to increased self awareness and healing.
  5. Child led.
    In play therapy, the child leads the sessions. The therapist follows the Child’s cues, creating a non-directive and accepting atmosphere.

The most apparent difference between the two is the communication style. Traditional psychology relies on verbal communication, while play therapy uses non verbal expression. Furthermore, in traditional psychology, therapists tend to guide the sessions, while in play therapy, children lead. Traditional psychology tends to be better suited for older children and adults, whereas play therapy is designed for children, and can be used with a broader age range.

Here at Magnus Health, we are lucky enough to have multiple disciplines with their own specialities. If you are interested in traditional psychology or play therapy, please give us a call or email at

About the author:

Picture of Shelley Jacks

Shelley Jacks

Shelley has been a psychologist for many years and was employed for ten years by Queensland Corrective Services. She has provided treatment and assessment to the highest risk prisoners in Queensland and has experience treating men and women in prison, many of whom had a mental health condition or a cognitive disability. Shelley has also worked as a psychologist for Queensland Health working in the Acute Young Adult Ward at Robina hospital and at the Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation unit at the Gold Coast Hospital. For the past seven years Shelley has been running her own psychology private practice and won a tender to Queensland Corrective Services. She has treated clients with many different mental health conditions including ASD and Intellectual Disability. Over this time Shelley has provided a number of assessments, as a psychologist, for clients which have enabled them to access NDIS funding which has improved their lives immensely. Her interest, over time, in the NDIS grew and she researched this service, its processes and what it was offering to clients in great detail. Shelley’s awareness of the support NDIS was able to offer clients and the enormous benefits it could bring to their lives led her to create Magnus Heath. A business where she could, along with a great team, significantly improve the lives of people living with a disability.

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