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Cogntive Behavioural Play Therapy (CBPT)

Cognitive-behavioural play therapy combines cognitive and behavioural theories within a play therapy model. CBPT is a developmentally sensitive therapeutic approach to cognitive and behavioural therapies. Through the use of play, therapy is carried out in a non-threatening and indirect style. It is brief, time-limited, structured, directive, problem-oriented, and educational. In cognitive-behavioural play therapy, the therapist enters into the play world and gains the acceptance of the child. Once that happens, the therapist begins to gently guide the play. The toys are used to model different reactions and teach the child new ways of thinking. CBPT uses materials and settings such as sand, puppets, live animals, action figures, dolls and games as well as nature walks and baking. Therapy is conducted individually as well as in group settings.

How Cognitive Behavioural Play Therapy Works?

During the process of CBPT children play in a way that resembles the experiences they are currently struggling with. Many children do not have the ability to express themselves verbally for many different reasons, and often will express their emotional grief through misbehaviour or acting out at school or home. Children along with their therapist pick toys and/or activities that help them to recreate issues in a safe way, and then their play evolves until they gain understanding, comfort, empowerment, and a sense of mastery over their emotions. The therapist will use the play materials to teach healthy problem solving skills and copying skills. The therapist will use praise and clarifications of the toys and games being played to help the child acquire new skills and behaviors and gain understanding.

What are the differences between Traditional Play therapy and CBPT?

CBPT is similar to what people know as Play Therapy. They both rely on a positive therapeutic relationship that is based on rapport and trust; the use of play activities as a means of communicating between therapist and child; and the message that therapy is a safe place. CBPT is an active intervention in which the therapist and child work together in establishing goals and choosing play materials and activities. The play therapist is also part educator, where new skills are taught to the child. In contrast to traditional play therapies in which play takes whatever direction the child chooses and therapist takes on whatever role the child assigns. Rather than teaching or changing behavior directly, traditional play therapy provides a safe environment for the child to act out and release his or her emotional conflicts in a non-directional method.

CBPT and the Parent(s)

The role of the parent or caregiver is crucial in the success of CBPT. Parents will be asked to meet with the therapist on a regular basis to update the therapist on the previous week or weeks. In addition, we may request that the parent contribute to their child’s progress by following recommendations for home life which may include activities outside of the play room that support the cognitive-behavioral play therapy model.

CBPT is Not

CBPT is not just about the therapist playing games, dolls, or coloring with your child even though it may appear that way. Play therapy is not used to distract your child so the therapist can dig deeper into their subconscious. Cognitive-Behavioral play therapy is not about fantasy. It is about real concerns that a child may have about what they perceive is going on in the world around them and helping them learn new coping and social skills through the use of play.

What CBPT can be helpful for?

Play therapy can be helpful for children who are having problems such as:


  • Academic Underachievement

  • Anger Management

  • Generalized Anxiety/Separation  Anxiety

  • Adoption/ Attachment Issues

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Bullying

  • Defiance and Oppositional Behavior

  • Depression and Sadness

  • Divorce

  • Death, Loss, and Grief

  • Medical Traumas

  • Physical, Sexual, or Emotional Abuse

  • Relationship Conflicts

  • Social skills training

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