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Play Therapy at Britannia Bridgeintroduction

Britannia Bridge has offered play therapy in school since 2004, as part of the support available to children. Although the benefits of play therapy for children are well established, it is still uncommon for a primary school to have a play therapist attached to the school and for the school to be able, therefore, to offer play therapy to children when they need some extra support.

The play therapist in school is called Jo Woodhouse and she is in school on Thursdays each week. Jo works with children (usually individually) in sessions where they choose for themselves what to do and how to play. Occasionally sessions may be offered to more than one child at a time, so they come together, as this can help some children when they need to interact with other children.

Play therapy offers the child a relationship that gives them someone separate to talk to and be with regularly; who can give them time, privacy and listening; who is focused on the child and works to understand how they see things and how they feel about what is happening for them.

Children use a lot of different sorts of toys and activities, including art and craft materials, sandplay, toys, games, role playing. Whatever they are doing, the relationship between the play therapist and child is the most important aspect - as trust develops, the child can feel safe in their sessions and will be able to express themselves more freely.

Jo Woodhouse is a fully qualified counsellor, play therapist and counselling supervisor, who holds a Diploma in Counselling, an Advanced Diploma in Play Therapy and a Diploma in Supervision. Jo is an Accredited Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and works within their Ethical Framework for Good Practice. She is a BACP Registered (accredited) practitioner. Her therapy approach is Person-Centred.

Information for Parents and Carers

What is Play Therapy?

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Play therapy is a way of working with children which can help them grow and develop as people. It is a form of counselling, developed to help children, who may not find it easy to talk about how they are feeling. In counselling, people usually talk, and this helps them work through things that may be difficult. For children, expressing feelings and experiences through play is often much easier and more comfortable than trying to talk about how they feel. The play therapy is confidential, as counselling would be with an adult. There is more information about what this means on another page.

Play therapy offers a safe, private space for a child to explore any areas of personal difficulty, looking for their own way through and their own solutions. The play therapist does not give advice or tell the child what to do. They offer support and encouragement to the child to acknowledge, explore and work through things in their own way. Play therapy sessions are usually 50 minutes long and are held once a week. The work is reviewed regularly between child and play therapist, so they can decide whether to continue or to stop.

In sessions, children can play and be together with the play therapist - they also talk if they want to, saying as much or as little as they like. The play therapist works to accept the child as they are, valuing them as a person, and trying to understand what the child is saying through their play. This kind of listening and relationship aims to help a person feel safe and understood and to trust themselves more fully so that they can express how they feel. It may be a slow process or happen more quickly, but the child decides the pace of how this happens.

Benefits of Play Therapy

Play therapy sessions can help a child feel better about themselves more of the time and to accept and understand themselves more. It can help children to get on better with people around them, both in school and at home – family, friends, staff in school. Most children enjoy coming to play therapy and look forward to the sessions. It is always the child's choice about whether to come and they are free to decide how long to come for. Some children only need a few sessions, whilst other children may work for a longer period.

Referrals - Why might a child be offered Play Therapy?

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Play Therapy can be offered to any child who might benefit from the chance to explore personal issues or who may be experiencing difficulties. It can be helpful for children in lots of common situations:

  • If they are feeling upset, sad or angry a lot of the time – or maybe they are having feelings they do not understand or which are big, sudden or overwhelming
  • If they are struggling with some aspects of behaviour in school or at home
  • If they have special needs or may find benefit in speech and language through being with the play therapist – talking and communicating in other ways
  • To help feel more confident and happy with other people
  • Maybe something difficult is happening (or has happened), such as a bereavement, loss or something happening in their family it may be they have acute or ongoing difficulties outside school

How is a child offered Play Therapy in school?

Children may be offered play therapy in school through the suggestion of a parent or carer or if staff in school think the child may benefit. We will ask your permission to work with your child. We will discuss the play therapy and how sessions work with the child, so they can decide if they want to attend or not. You can talk to the Headteacher or another member of staff also. If you would like to meet Jo to talk or discuss anything beforehand, this can be arranged for a Thursday when Jo is in school.

What can I do to help?

Once play therapy has started, giving your child the opportunity to talk to you about it if they want to can be helpful, especially in a quiet moment when other family members are not around. It is usually better if you don't ask your child too many detailed questions about their sessions, but to let them talk if they want to.


Play therapy, like counselling, is a process that needs the safety and privacy of confidentiality in order to take place. This is true whatever the age of the client – the person coming. Fear of a lack of confidentiality can deter children from talking. On the rare occasion when a child's disclosure suggests that the child, or other children, may have suffered serious harm, or be at risk of serious harm, the play therapist or counsellor has a duty to inform the head teacher, who will take any further necessary decisions regarding Child Protection. The need to break confidentiality would wherever possible be discussed first with the child.

Legal Aspects

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The Children's Act says that the wishes of the child have to be taken into account when considering their best interests. The UN Convention on the Child also upholds this principle. The play therapist or counsellor has a duty to promote the best interests of her clients. Under Child Protection guidelines, the play therapist or counsellor has a duty to report to the head teacher when she has serious concerns for a child’s safety or welfare.

Professional Codes of Confidentiality

The professional codes of practice for play therapists/counsellors place on them a duty not to disclose any information about an individual client, whatever their age, except in the most exceptional circumstances. The importance of professional discretion to act in the best interests of individual clients is central to all professional codes. Jo Woodhouse is an accredited member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, and works to their Ethical Framework for Good Practice.

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