Play Therapy Themes & Meanings

There are themes and then there are meanings.

The themes are the overarching ideas that the child’s play is trying to tell us.

Then we have to dig a little deeper to figure out what is the meanings; in other words, what is the child’s play themes trying to tell us.

  1. Power and Aggression
  • Aggressor-Victim (child as aggressor or victim)
  • Dying/Death/Loss
  • Devouring (taking charge aggressively)
  • Good Person vs. Bad Person
  • Generalized Aggression
  • Power & Overcoming Weakness
  • Seeking Power/Authority/Wisdom

2.  Family Relationships and Nurturance

  • Constancy
  • Togetherness/Separation
  • Nurturing Others
  • Self-Nurturance
  • Failed Nurturance
  • Self-Neglect or Punishment
  • Lack of Attachment/Detachment
  • Parent/Caregiver-Child
  • Regression
  • Exits and Entrances to Family System

3. Control and Safety

  • Danger
  • Rescue
  • Escape
  • Fixing/Repairing/Doctoring
  • Cleaning
  • Fire/Disasters
  • Messing
  • Protecting
  • Controlling
  • Refusal/Inaction
  • Manipulation
  • Sorting
  • Burying or Drowning
  • Broken/Sick/Hurt
  • Containing

4. Exploration and Mastery

  • Sensory/Environment Exploration
  • Mastery/Competence
  • Cheating/Winning
  • Creativity

5. Interaction & Interpersonal

  • Building Relationship with Adult
  • General Positive interactions
  • General Negative Interactions
  • Boredom
  • Acceptance/Rejection

6. Sexualized Play

  • Sexual Activities
  • Sexual Behaviors Directed at Adult
  • Sexual Curiosity

Some children will engage in the same play themes over and over again. Some children will waver between several themes.  It really all depends on what the behaviors are trying to tell us.

Image result for kids playing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *