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Play Therapy for Adults: 6 Activities to Enhance Your Mental Health

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Did you know that the power of play is not only for children but can also benefit adults? Play therapy for adults, also known as adult play therapy, a well-established approach for children, has also made its way into adult mental health.

Adult play therapy is gaining popularity and transforming lives by offering a safe and relaxed environment for individuals to express emotions, cope with trauma, and build relationships.

In this blog post, we will delve into adult play therapy, explore its various techniques and benefits, and guide you in finding a registered play therapist.

Understanding Adult Play Therapy

Play therapy is a therapeutic approach based on the understanding that children learn and communicate through play, and the same can be applied to adults.

The field of play therapy encompasses a wide range of activities and techniques designed to address various mental health issues and promote positive change in daily life. Adult play therapy involves using play-based techniques to help adults express emotions, cope with trauma, and build relationships in a safe and relaxed environment.

Theoretical approaches to adult play therapy include child-centered, cognitive-behavioral, family, and psychodynamic play therapy. Each of these approaches has its unique methods and goals, and a trained play therapist can tailor the therapy according to the specific needs of the individual.

Role of the Play Therapist

The play therapist plays a crucial role in creating a supportive environment, facilitating communication, and guiding the adult through the therapeutic process.

They employ various play therapy techniques, such as sand tray therapy and art therapy, to help the individual process their emotions and experiences in a non-threatening manner.

Their primary goal is to help adults understand and express their emotions, develop coping skills, and improve their mental health.

The play therapist’s expertise and understanding of the therapeutic process enable them to create a safe space for self-expression, emotional regulation, and healing, making play therapy a powerful tool for adults.

6 Play Therapy Activities for Adults

Now that we better understand what is adult play therapy let’s explore some common play therapy techniques specifically tailored for adults.

Each of these techniques offers a unique approach to addressing emotional, relational, and mental health challenges and can be adapted to the individual needs of the adult client.

A trained play therapist can utilize these techniques in various combinations, depending on the specific needs and goals of the adult client. By integrating these techniques into the therapeutic process, the play therapist can help individuals process their emotions, develop coping strategies, and enhance their overall mental well-being.

1. Sand Tray Therapy

Sand Tray Therapy

Sand tray therapy uses sand and small objects to create scenes representing emotions, experiences, and relationships.

In this technique, the adult client is given a tray filled with sand and various miniature objects, such as figurines, animals, and buildings, which they can use to represent their thoughts and emotions visually.

These objects can symbolize anything of personal significance, allowing the individual to explore their emotions and experiences in a non-threatening manner.

The play therapist facilitates the sand tray therapy process by encouraging the adult client to share their thoughts, feelings, and insights about the scene they have created.

This therapeutic technique enables individuals to process their emotions, gain a deeper understanding of their experiences, and develop coping strategies to manage emotional challenges in their daily life.

2. Art and Creative Expression

Art and Creative Expression

Art and creative expression techniques, such as painting, drawing, and collage-making, help adults process emotions and experiences through artistic mediums.

These techniques allow adults to express their emotions, investigate their relationships, and gain understanding through the creation of visual art.

Art-making can also promote emotional awareness, self-expression, and the development of coping skills.

The play therapist guides the adult client through art-making, encouraging them to explore their emotions and experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

By engaging in art and creative expression techniques, adults can gain valuable insights into their emotional state and develop new strategies for managing life’s challenges.

3. Role-Playing and Psychodrama

Role-Playing and Psychodrama

Role-playing and psychodrama techniques involve acting out scenarios and situations to explore emotions, relationships, and personal challenges.

These techniques can help adults practice new behaviors, examine their emotions, and understand the impact of their actions on others.

Role-playing and psychodrama can also be used to experiment with alternative ways of handling challenging situations, ultimately leading to more effective coping strategies and improved mental health.

The play therapist facilitates the role-playing and psychodrama process by encouraging the adult client to engage in various scenarios, providing feedback, and helping the individual explore their emotions and experiences.

By participating in role-playing and psychodrama activities, adults can better understand their emotions, relationships, and personal challenges, improving their mental well-being and overall life satisfaction.

4. Playful Movement

Playful Movement

Playful movement is a form of play therapy that incorporates physical movement, creativity, and expression to promote healing and growth in adults. This technique encourages adults to engage in spontaneous and nonverbal expression through movement.

This therapy emphasizes the connection between the mind and body, promoting awareness of bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts.

The play therapist invites individuals to explore their emotions, sensations, and experiences through their bodies, allowing for a deeper and more holistic form of self-expression.

By engaging in mindful movement practices, individuals can cultivate greater self-awareness, self-regulation, and inner balance, leading to improved overall well-being.

5. Improvisational Play

Improvisational Play

Improvisational play, also known as improvisation or improv is a valuable form of play therapy for adults, offering opportunities for creativity, spontaneity, and self-expression.

Individuals engage in unscripted and spontaneous activities, such as improvisational games, scenes, or storytelling. This spontaneity allows adults to bypass their inner critic and tap into their natural creativity, enabling them to express themselves freely and authentically.

This technique requires individuals to be fully present in the moment, attuned to their surroundings and fellow players. This heightened sense of mindfulness cultivates a deeper connection to the present moment, promoting relaxation, focus, and self-awareness.

Additionally, improv therapy often incorporates humor, playfulness, and light-heartedness, creating an atmosphere of joy and levity. Laughter and play have therapeutic benefits, releasing tension, boosting mood, and fostering a sense of playfulness and optimism.

6. Board Games

Play therapy techniques for adults

Board games can serve as an effective and enjoyable form of play therapy for adults, offering numerous therapeutic benefits.

Board games often require players to use various cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills, such as problem-solving, decision-making, planning, and emotional regulation.

By actively participating in gameplay, adults can develop and strengthen these skills in a fun and engaging manner, promoting personal growth and development.

Moreover, this therapy can offer a welcome distraction from stress, worry, and negative thoughts, allowing adults to relax, unwind, and enjoy the present moment.

The immersive nature of gameplay can help individuals temporarily escape from their concerns and focus on the enjoyable and engaging aspects of the experience.

Benefits of Adult Play Therapy

Adult play therapy offers numerous benefits, including improved emotional expression and regulation, trauma healing, and enhanced relationship building.

By engaging in play therapy activities, adults can gain insight into their emotions, learn how to regulate them and develop coping strategies in the face of stressful events.

This therapeutic approach also provides a safe space for adults to process and heal from traumatic experiences, fostering resilience and personal growth.

Moreover, play therapy can help adults build and maintain healthy relationships by cultivating improved communication skills and fostering empathy and trust between individuals.

Emotional Expression and Regulation

Group play therapy activities

Play therapy helps adults express and regulate emotions by engaging in activities that promote self-awareness and emotional processing.

One such play therapy activity is the Emotions Ball Play Therapy technique. It involves the client catching a ball with an emotion written on it and sharing when they experienced that feeling. This activity enables the adult to express their emotions and gain insight into how they can manage them daily.

Another advantage of play therapy for emotional expression and regulation is creating a safe and supportive environment for adults to explore and process their emotions.

The non-threatening nature of play therapy allows individuals to freely express their emotions, leading to improved self-esteem, emotional awareness, and self-regulation.

Trauma and Healing

Play therapy activities for trauma

Trauma healing is facilitated through play therapy by providing a safe space for adults to explore and process traumatic experiences. 

Individuals can confront and make sense of their traumatic experiences in a supportive environment by engaging in play therapy activities.

This can lead to developing new coping strategies, which can help individuals overcome the effects of trauma and promote personal growth.

Research has shown art therapy and sand tray therapy are two standard play therapy techniques that can be particularly helpful in trauma healing.

By allowing adults to express their emotions and experiences through artistic mediums and symbolic representations, these techniques enable individuals to process and understand their trauma, leading to a more profound sense of healing and emotional well-being.

Relationship Building

Group play therapy activities

Relationship building is enhanced through play therapy by fostering communication, empathy, and trust between individuals.

Play therapy activities, such as role-playing and creative expression, allow adults to explore different perspectives, hone problem-solving skills, and develop new ways of thinking.

These activities also help individuals practice communication and negotiation techniques and explore alternative ways of expressing their feelings.

In addition to improving communication skills, play therapy can foster empathy and trust between individuals, creating a supportive atmosphere for emotional exploration.

By understanding the feelings and thoughts of others, adults can develop a more profound sense of empathy and trust in themselves and others, ultimately leading to more robust and healthier relationships.

Finding a Registered Play Therapist

If you’re considering adult play therapy, finding a registered play therapist with the credentials and training to provide adequate and appropriate treatment is essential.

To help you in your search, we’ll discuss what qualifications to look for and how to obtain recommendations and referrals from trusted sources.

Doing your research and ensuring that the play therapist you choose has the right qualifications and experience will ensure you receive the best care and support throughout your play therapy journey.

Factors to ConsiderDescriptionImportanceResources
Credentials and TrainingThe therapist should possess a master’s degree, a mental health license, and specialized training in play therapy.Ensures the therapist has the necessary knowledge and skills to provide effective play therapy services to adults.

Techniques and approaches may differ from those used with children.
The Association for Play Therapy (APT) offers a comprehensive list of registered play therapists.
Recommendations and ReferralsSeeking advice and referrals from trusted sources such as healthcare professionals, friends, or family members who have experience with play therapy.These can provide valuable insights and suggestions for finding a registered play therapist.Consult the Association for Play Therapy (APT) directories to locate a registered play therapist.
Finding a Registered Play Therapist table.

Real-Life Examples of Adult Play Therapy.

Examples of play therapy

Real-life examples of adult play therapy success stories demonstrate the transformative potential of this therapeutic approach.

Through play therapy, adults have overcome anxiety and depression, heal from trauma, and enhance their relationships.

These success stories inspire those considering play therapy, showcasing the power of play in promoting emotional healing, personal growth, and improved mental health.

In the following sections, we will explore specific success stories that highlight the benefits of adult play therapy, providing a deeper understanding of how this therapeutic approach can help individuals overcome various mental health challenges and lead more fulfilling lives.

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression

Play therapy has been shown to help adults overcome anxiety and depression by providing a safe space for emotional expression and self-discovery.

Combining play therapy and psychotherapy can provide impressive outcomes and augment the therapeutic process.

In one success story, an adult struggling with anxiety and depression found relief and improved mental well-being through play therapy.

Various play therapy activities allowed them to express and process their emotions, develop coping strategies, and overcome anxiety and depression.

Healing from Trauma

Healing from trauma is possible through play therapy by allowing adults to process and make sense of traumatic experiences in a supportive environment.

Through play therapy, individuals can confront and process their traumatic experiences, developing new coping strategies and fostering resilience and personal growth.

By engaging in various play therapy techniques, they could process their history of abuse, establish boundaries, and recover from traumatic events.

As a result, they experienced a significant improvement in their mental health and overall well-being after attending therapy sessions.

Enhancing Relationships

Enhancing relationships is achievable through play therapy by fostering communication, empathy, and trust between individuals.

By engaging in various play therapy techniques, they were able to develop better communication skills, cultivate empathy, and build trust with their partner.

Through play therapy, individuals can overcome emotional barriers and create stronger, healthier relationships.


In conclusion, adult play therapy is a powerful and transformative therapeutic approach that offers numerous benefits for emotional healing, personal growth, and improved mental health. Play therapy techniques allow adults to express and regulate emotions, heal from trauma, and enhance their relationships.

Remember, the power of play is not limited to children; adults, too, can benefit from this innovative and effective therapeutic approach. So embrace the world of adult play therapy, and embark on your journey towards emotional healing, personal growth, and a more balanced, fulfilling life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can play therapy be used on adults?

Play Therapy is traditionally used for children but is also beneficial for adults. Charles Schaefer considered the “Father of Play Therapy,” confirms that Play Therapy can be utilized with adults.

However, getting them to engage in imaginative play may require more effort.

Play Therapy can be a powerful tool for adults to express their emotions and gain insight into their behavior. It can help them better understand their feelings and how to cope with them.

What is role-play therapy for adults?

Role-play therapy for adults focuses on helping the client confront and overcome their fears and phobias by introducing new behaviors through simulated scenarios, with the therapist taking on specific roles.

These scenarios are designed to help patients practice new behaviors and reactions in a safe environment, allowing them to gain confidence and become more comfortable with their fears.

The therapist will guide the patient, providing support and feedback as needed.

How can play therapy help adults heal from trauma?

Play therapy can help adults heal from trauma by providing a safe space to explore and process traumatic experiences, allowing them to develop healthier coping strategies and foster resilience.

It can help them develop healthier coping strategies and foster resilience, which can help them move forward.


Geoffrion, Corinne, “Play Therapy Techniques with Adults in an Inpatient Setting” (2018). Expressive Therapies Capstone Theses. Link.

Kemutambah, Otis, “Facilitating Emotional Regulation in Adults with Developmental Disabilities through Person-Centered Play Therapy” (2018). Honors Theses. Link.

Felsman, P., Gunawardena, S., & Seifert, C. M. (2020). Improv experience promotes divergent thinking, uncertainty tolerance, and affective well-being. Thinking Skills and Creativity. Link.

Additional Resources

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About the author

Dr. Teresita Rios

Dr. Teresita Simonne Rios, a 30-year-old physician from Colombia currently living in Germany, is an expert in General Medicine and Surgery, and Master in Neuroscience, with a deep research focus on pain and mental health disorders. Since her graduation in 2015, she has accumulated a wealth of experience in various medical disciplines and demographics.

Her belief in the paramount importance of mental health fuels her passion for understanding and treating depression and anxiety. Embracing an open-minded approach, she also values knowledge from different fields, such as music and arts, and always harbors a passion for learning new things.

Characterized by her commitment, willingness to learn, and focus on mental health, Dr. Rios stands as a multifaceted professional and advocate for holistic healthcare.

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