Evidence-based child therapy in O’Fallon MO

Child Counseling

Empowering Parents with 3 Proven Pathways

Evidence-based child therapy in O'Fallon, MO


Sometimes a child needs time alone with a trained professional. Deborah Woods, National Board-Certified Counselor offers evidence-based play therapy for children ages 3-10.

Evidence-based Child Therapy in O'Fallon, MO


At other times, a parent needs to know how to support their child at home. Deborah Woods, NCC, offers Playtime Power, an online home learning program. This program provides parents with access to evidence-based child-centered play therapy skills. Deborah has used these skills to help children for the past 38 years.

Evidence-based Child therapy in O'Fallon, MO


Then there are times a family needs both. Deborah Woods, NCC, offers a combination package with both the Playtime Power, home learning program, and time in the playroom. The evidence is in. Play therapy is even more effective when parents are trained to use evidence based child-centered play therapy.

Evidence-Based Child Therapy in O'Fallon, MO

Who benefits from play therapy?

So, you might be wondering, “Who does play therapy really help?” Well, the answer is simple. Evidence-based play therapy helps kids, parents, and those who care for them. There’s a lot of research that proves child-centered play therapy works for kids of all ages. Whether they’re infants or toddlers, still in diapers, or already in preschool or school, parents see positive outcomes. Plus, child-centered play therapy is especially good for kids who have experienced tough times in their lives. It can help them cope with losses or traumatic events they have encountered.

And that’s not all! Over the past sixty years, studies consistently show the effectiveness of child-centered play therapy. It’s evidence based! And it puts kids at the heart of it! Play therapy helps with all sorts of things.

Evidence Based Child Therapy Helps Kids

For instance, the evidence shows that child-centered play therapy can lower feelings of anxiety and depression. Play therapy can make it easier for kids to handle the effects of trauma. Kids with ADHD can find relief from their symptoms. It even helps those who sometimes struggle with their behavior, like acting out, being overly aggressive, or shy.

There’s more to play therapy than just managing tough feelings and behaviors, though. This kind of therapy also helps kids do better in school, express themselves more effectively, and feel better about themselves. It can boost their social skills and help them adjust better to their emotions.

What about the grown-ups in the kids’ lives, like parents and teachers?

Well, they also see benefits from play therapy.  When parents get involved, child-centered play therapy can make the relationships with adults much stronger and more enjoyable. It can also decrease the stress between kids and their parents or teachers.

The Most Important Evidence

Lastly, and this is big, in my experience as a counselor for 38 years, I’ve seen play therapy work wonders for thousands of families. But what really convinces me? It’s the fact that play therapy has made an incredible difference in my own family’s life. That’s the strongest proof for me.

What is play therapy?

First, play therapy is a way of helping families that uses play to support kids in expressing the thoughts and feelings they can’t communicate in talk therapy. Because children enjoy playing, they’re willing to engage in the change process.

Many Kinds of Play Therapy

Next, what you need to know is that, play therapy is a broad category that includes more than a dozen differing and sometimes contradictory treatment philosophies, techniques, and methods. For the last six decades, researchers have studied the evidence.

More than Toys or Games

What most play therapy practitioners can agree on is that, simply having some toys or games in a counseling or therapy office, or encouraging clients to draw or play with blocks as they talk with a therapist, is not play therapy.

Evidence-based child therapy in O'Fallon, MO.
Evidence-based child therapy - O'Fallon, MO

What is child-centered play therapy?

Specifically, child-centered play therapy is a well-established set of beliefs and practices that use the beneficial powers of play to help prevent or resolve psychological, emotional and social difficulties to achieve optimal growth and development.

Let’s Break that Down!

Wow! That’s a mouthful. What it means is that from the time Virginia Axline first put together her ideas about how to work with kids using play, until now, there’s been a lot of work done to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That’s why we call it evidence based child therapy. With all that effort and study, you know that it’s a proven approach that gets results.

At this point in our conversation, it’s worth mentioning that results can vary depending on a counselor’s qualifcation and experience, the severity of the problem, and the number of play therapy sessions.

How does child-centered play therapy work?

Child centered play therapy starts with a belief system. After 38 years of practicing child-centered play therapy, I believe more now than ever before, that kids find their best answers when I trust them to take active leadership in the playroom. I’ve seen the evidence up close and personal. Like me, you might be surprised to discover that kids find answers in play therapy that are a right fit for their world with more lasting and deeper impact than anything an adult could impose of them from the outside.

After the belief, comes the practice.

I start by creating a safe and supportive place for kids to be themselves. Next, I avoid doing many of the things that adults do naturally in everyday interactions with kids. Little things adults do without any harmful intent, can get in the way of a child’s leadership and decision making in the playroom.

Then, as a child explores the toys in the playroom, following their own ideas and imagination, I respond to their spontaneous behaviors and the things they say in a way that inspires their growth. I don’t say the things adults usually say so that kids can figure things out for themselves.

While I’m responding, I stay focused on keeping kids responsible for their growth and believing in their capacity to direct their progress. I regulate my own emotions and focus on responding with caring and respect.

Throughout the play session, I look for the ways kids communicate in their play, what they believe about themselves and about the world around them. Then, I comment on what I see to increase their self-awareness. I look for changes in their play over the weeks. Next, I comment on the feelings I see them experiencing to help increase their ability to regulate their emotions.

A big part of the process is keeping everyone safe.

Because safety is necessary for learning and growth, I set the occasional limit to keep everyone in the room safe when and if a child’s impulse poses a danger.

I do my part and kids do theirs. With time, kids gain self-awareness, self-control and self-regulation skills. Behavioral problems decrease. Mental health and social skills increase. While all that work is happening, we have a whole bunch of fun because fun work is the best work.

Evidence-Based Child Therapy - O'Fallon, MO
Evidence-based Child Therapy in O'Fallon, MO

Can child-centered play therapy be harmful?

Child-centered play therapy is a safe and non-invasive form of therapy. However, as with any kind of therapy, there is a small risk that play therapy could be harmful if not conducted appropriately.

Who You Choose for Your Child Makes a Difference

In particular, if a therapist is working with a traumatized child and is not properly trained, they could retraumatize the child. For this reason, I’ve been trained in working with kids and trauma. In addition to extensive training over the years, I’ve had a great deal of experience working with children who have experienced unspeakable trauma in their lives. I discovered, in my training, that it is important to avoid asking the child leading questions. Traumatized children may answer what they think someone wants to hear rather than what actually happened for a variety of reasons. Child-centered play therapy prevents this potential problem because I’m trained to keep the child in the lead and avoid asking questions.

The Bottom Line for Parents wanting Evidence Based Child Therapy

Overall, child-centered play therapy is a safe and effective form of treatment for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma when conducted by a properly trained and qualified professional.


Parent-Child Therapy

Curious about how you as a parent can be part of your child’s play therapy journey? You’re in for good news! You can actually learn to use the same therapeutic methods that a play therapist uses. In fact, studies show that parents who are trained in these child-centered play therapy skills can often help their children get better faster than even trained therapists. Sounds exciting, right?

Here’s how it works.

Just as a teacher might guide their students, play therapists can guide you, teaching you their special methods of play therapy. Then, you can use these methods with your child at home. This means you don’t have to wait for the next therapy session for your child to receive the benefits of play therapy. Instead, it becomes a part of your daily life, helping your child cope with their feelings and behave in a healthier way more quickly. In other words, you become a vital part of their healing process. Isn’t that wonderful?

So, how about giving it a try? By joining your child in this therapeutic play journey, you’re not just becoming their best playmate, but also their best ally in their path towards healing and happiness. Now that’s what we call a parenting win!

Evidence-based Child Therapy in O'Fallon, MO
Evidence-based Child therapy in O'Fallon, MO

How can parents help?

Are you eager to support your child’s progress in play therapy even more? There’s another thing you can do! By changing the way you handle challenges with your child, you can make a big difference. Instead of just reacting to what’s happening on the surface, try to understand what’s really going on underneath. It’s like becoming a detective, seeking clues to understand your child’s feelings and behaviors better.

Here’s the thing: kids don’t always express their feelings like adults do. When they’re struggling with something, it might come out in their behavior. So, when your child acts out or behaves in a way that puzzles you, don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, pause for a moment. Try to see beyond the behavior to the feelings or worries that might be causing it.

Remember those play therapy skills we talked about earlier?

This is where they come in handy. By using the techniques you learn, you can help your child express what they’re feeling and navigate through it. Studies show that when parents use these skills, kids often get better faster than with therapists alone.

But the best part? By seeking to understand your child in this way, you’re not only helping them in the here and now. You’re also teaching them a valuable life skill. They’ll learn to look beyond the surface of their own feelings and behaviors, which is a skill they’ll use for the rest of their life. So why not give it a try? Remember, you’re not just a parent. You’re also your child’s best ally in their journey towards feeling better.

Teachers and Play Therapy

And what about teachers, the everyday heroes in the classroom? Well, you’re just as important in this play therapy journey! You see, you can also learn to use these therapeutic play methods, just like parents can. And the great thing is, implementing these methods in the classroom doesn’t just help one child, it can have a positive impact on the entire class. Now that sounds like a classroom revolution!

As a teacher, you’ve got the opportunity to apply these child-centered play therapy skills in your day-to-day teaching. This means you won’t have to wait for a counseling session to provide your students with the benefits of play therapy. It becomes part of your regular teaching routine, helping your students navigate their feelings and behaviors more effectively, right within the walls of your classroom.

So, what’s the real magic here?

Well, by introducing these therapeutic methods into your lessons, you’re not only helping students academically, but also promoting their emotional well-being. And when kids feel better, they learn better. This is what we call a true win-win situation in education!

Let’s make the classroom a happier and healthier place for everyone. By getting involved in play therapy, you’re not just teaching your students their ABCs and 123s, but also helping them learn the language of emotions and self-expression. That’s a lesson they’ll carry with them for life. So, why not hop on this journey and become not only an educator but also a facilitator of growth and emotional resilience?


Evidence-based child therapy in O'Fallon, MO

Happy Clients

What They Say

“I highly recommend Deborah to any parent that is struggling with their child. Her teachings were extremely helpful in guiding me towards a more understanding and empathic approach with my child.”

“Deborah Woods and Playtime Power have been a complete Godsend, like 100%. A miracle. I’ve discovered how to bond with my daughter in a way I’ve never done before.”

“I was losing hope that I would ever find someone to help my son with his behavioral issues. Deborah’s program taught me so much, not only about my son but also about myself and how I parent. I have seen a steady decline in behavior issues, both at home and at preschool. I honestly did not think play therapy would help at all – but it does wonders! She is really a Godsend.”

“Highly recommend for parents looking for healthy ways to empower their headstrong children.”

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