Play Therapy for a Child in the Hospital

What is play therapy?

Play therapy helps meet the emotional needs of a child who is in the hospital. Being in the hospital can be stressful for children and their families. Children may feel scared, confused, and not in control.

Play therapy is used to help a child understand and cope with:

  • Illness

  • Surgery

  • Hospitalization

  • Tests

  • Treatments

  • Other procedures

Play therapy centers on the family and helps a child adjust to hospital care. Your child can express themselves through structured play. This type of therapy can support your child and your family with:

  • Play activities to help your child learn about and get ready for procedures or surgery

  • Relaxation methods

  • Pain management methods

  • Structured play to help them express feelings

Parents of babies can learn new skills to comfort their child. They also learn ways to encourage their baby's development while their baby is in the hospital.

Who will do play therapy with my child?

Professionals trained in child development and therapeutic play will be involved in your child's play therapy. This could be a registered play therapist, a certified child life specialist, or other members of your child's healthcare team.

A play therapist is a licensed mental health professional with extra training and experience in play therapy. They have special training in childhood problems as well as direct clinical supervision. Some of the people that are eligible for training are licensed mental health professionals, school counselors, and school psychologists with a master's or doctoral degree.

A certified child life specialist (CLS) is educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury.

Help for siblings

Play therapy can also help with your other children. Siblings may be worried about their brother or sister who is in the hospital. They may be upset if their parents are away from them more often. The child life specialist or play therapist can help you to answer questions at home to help your children understand.

Visiting the hospital can also be stressful for brothers and sisters. Play therapy can help prepare them before they visit. This way, they can understand what they see and how they may feel before and after their visit.