5 Ways Play Therapy Helps Adults

Janell Johnson, LPC, RPT on Aug 05, 2022

People often think of kids when play therapy comes to mind. But adults enjoy and benefit from play too. An adult’s play may be subtler and may mean playfully engaging in activities such as ones that are stress-relieving.

Play may light you up, and when it comes to play therapy, It may be helpful to you in the following ways:

Express freely & explore

Adults may have a hard time expressing themselves. Play like role-play, sand play, games, music, and art may make it easier to talk about things.

Engaging in play may help you place some distance between yourself and the things you want to share. This safe spot may help you share more freely.

But at times even saying things out loud may be a challenge. In such situations, using play such as sand trays may help you create and reflect your world on the sand. These expressions may also be subconscious, which the therapist may help explore and interpret.

This type of exploration can feel less formal and less threatening. The suppressed issues that adults may have may be approached and let out.

Re-live or recover your carefree childhood

Letting your guard down and acting silly or playing may not seem to be in line with “adulting,” being serious, productive, and working hard.

But play is important, and we should give ourselves permission to play and connect with our inner child.

With this style of therapy, the relationship built with the therapist helps you play and express without feeling judged. Re-living your childhood — the things you liked and the play you genuinely enjoy — is done in play therapy. And re-living such moments may be very therapeutic and de-stressing.

In case you experienced traumatic events as a child and feel like you lost your carefree childhood to it, play therapy may also help you recover what you might have missed out on.


The symbolic usage of metaphors in play therapy provides healing. Miniature figures in the sand tray therapy, role-plays, drawings, etc. become symbols of people’s experiences and feelings, some of which may be very deep-rooted.

Play therapy also has many techniques which may also be appropriate treatments for grief and loss, post-traumatic stress, obsessions, compulsions, attention deficit hyperactivity, mood issues, anxiety, depression, dementia, and unresolved childhood issues.

Learn to relax & play

If you like dressing up for Halloween, singing your favorite songs in the shower, or enjoying a good game of chess, you’re engaging in play. And if you do these activities, some reasons may be because they help you unwind from your day, feel more relaxed, and put you in a better mood.

This is what play therapy may help you with. As you use play to communicate, play therapy may help you decrease stress and make you feel at ease.

Let your imagination & creativity flow

You might find that you get very imaginative and creative in play therapy. This can be a great creative outlet if that’s something you think you’d enjoy!

You may engage in playful behavior and use your whole personality to express and discover yourself through play. By taking on different roles, letting yourself free, creating and recreating events from your life, you could even let your imagination and creativity flow freely like they did when you were a kid.

Play therapy can be a great way to help you find the ability to play and have some fun exploring yourself in a way that feels safe. If you think you or someone you know may benefit from play therapy, research mental health professionals that have specialized training in play therapy and credentials from the Association for Play Therapy (APT).

Janell Johnson is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Alexandria, VA.

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