Play therapy helps children develop confidence – Part A

The story of Jill, 8 years

In a recent session with a young child name Jill, aged 8 years, I noticed growth in her level of confidence.

According to her parents, Jill was not confident at school and so found it very difficult to make friends. She always had to ask other children if she could play with them. Jill had no friends and was sad and disillusioned.

Children's play

Because children between the ages of 3 and 12 years don't naturally have the ability to talk things through like adults, I encouraged Jill to express her thoughts and feelings through play. Why?

Children have the gift of knowing how to express themselves though play. When they're playing with their friends, they are able to connect to each other emotionally in the story or game they are making up. Sometimes they don't use many words at all. From a very age children use play as their language.

In the therapy room

As the therapist, I provided a respectful, authentic and accepting environment for Jill to play. Jill was able to play without any judgment from me. She was also able to take risks and experience failures without my trying to fix it. This was so important for Jill. If she was able to play in her own unique way and be accepted for that, then she could learn to accept herself.

In the session, where I witnessed her lift in confidence, she chose to create a construction using cardboard, pipecleaners and sticky tape. At first the creation was not working how she wanted it to. Jill felt angry and frustrated. Whatever the experience Jill created, it became an opportunity for her to realise that whatever happened it was okay. She did feel disappointed but despite that she continued making her construction.

Connection between the therapist and the child

The structure of Child Centered Play Therapy brings together the trusting relationship between the therapist and the child, and the child's natural ability to play. Through this framework, children like Jill are able to heal and grow and realise that they are okay the way they are. Through this experience they develop  confidence in themselves.


Research of the relationship between Self-Efficacy, Child Centered Play Therapy, and Classroom Learning Behaviors in the Professional School Counseling journal (Fall, Balvanz, Johnson, & Nelson, 1999).