How to Set Up Play Therapy for Success

This week, I want to address a crucial topic that frequently comes up in my Play Therapy Academy, during live webinars, and in-person trainings: setting up play therapy for success. Many play therapists, whether new or experienced, often feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or worried about their effectiveness. This episode will guide you through establishing clear expectations, recognizing imposter syndrome, and effectively communicating with parents to ensure a successful therapeutic process.

Identifying and Communicating Expectations

Why Expectations Matter

When working with parents and children, having clear expectations is vital. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the therapeutic process. It also aids in reducing frustration and confusion, ultimately leading to more effective therapy.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself to help identify your expectations:

  1. How often will you meet with children and adolescents?
    • Explain to parents why consistency and weekly sessions are important.
  2. How will you work with parents and why?
    • Consider different modalities like parent coaching, parent-child sessions, or family play therapy sessions.
  3. What are your communication methods with parents?
    • Decide on preferred communication methods (e.g., phone calls, emails, texts) and explain the importance of maintaining professional boundaries.
  4. What are your boundaries during play therapy sessions?
    • Identify personal limits and establish clear rules to ensure a safe and therapeutic environment.

Recognizing and Managing Imposter Syndrome

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a common issue among play therapists, especially those new to the field. It involves feeling like a fraud and doubting your abilities despite evidence to the contrary. This can significantly impact your effectiveness and confidence.

Signs of Imposter Syndrome:

  • Feeling anxious and overwhelmed about your skills.
  • Avoiding conversations with parents due to fear of being exposed.
  • Overcompensating by not requiring parent involvement.
  • Frequently changing interventions without a clear plan.

Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome:

  1. Recognize when it kicks in.
    • Awareness is the first step to managing imposter syndrome.
  2. Mindset Shift:
    • Believe in your expertise and the skills you bring to the table.
  3. Learn and Apply a Play Therapy Model:
    • Stick to a specific model and use it to guide your therapeutic process.
  4. Get Good Consultation and Training:
    • Continuous learning and supervision can help build confidence and competence.

Effective Communication with Parents

Establishing Expectations with Parents

Communicating your expectations clearly to parents is crucial for a successful therapeutic relationship. Here are some tips:

  1. Initial Phone Call:
    • Explain your play therapy model and its benefits.
  2. First Session:
    • Conduct a thorough psychosocial assessment and discuss treatment plans.
  3. Regular Updates:
    • Keep parents informed about progress and involve them in the process.

Handling High-Conflict Situations

When working with high-conflict families, it's important to manage communication and involvement carefully. Here are some strategies:

  • Use email communication for high-conflict situations, ensuring privacy and professionalism.
  • Set clear boundaries and expectations for both parents, especially if they are separated or divorced.
  • Schedule regular parent sessions to discuss progress and address any concerns.


Setting up play therapy for success involves identifying and communicating clear expectations, recognizing and managing imposter syndrome, and effectively engaging with parents. By doing so, you can create a more structured, supportive, and effective therapeutic environment.

If you're interested in learning more about play therapy, consider joining my Play Therapy Academy or exploring my online courses. Visit RH Play Therapy Training for more information.

Categories: : Imposter Syndrome, Play Therapy, Play Therapy Model, Podcast