Speaking through play

Therapist uses play to help children who have experienced family violence

How does a child who has experienced family violence tell their story? Through the language of play.

At RISE, a provider of professional family violence services in Nelson Tasman, new clinician and child-centered play therapy intern Jane Brash is learning and practicing this internationally recognised form of therapy for children aged between 2-12 years.

“Young children don’t always have the language to express their thoughts and feelings,” Jane says. “The reason for this depends on a number of factors, including their age and stage in development. Play is a way children can express themselves symbolically. It can show their conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings.”

From the start, children are invited to play with therapy-specific toys. The environment is child-focused, safe, and non-threatening.  Jane is alongside each child, tuning in, tracking the play, and putting a voice to the story.

“It’s really important for the children to direct their own play. Then they can tell their story without expectations or judgement. Play provides a way of getting to know their thoughts and feelings and it is essential to provide a warm, caring, safe space for children to express themselves.”

Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) is one of the most thoroughly researched theoretical models of play therapy in the world. As with all specialist clinicians working at RISE, additional ongoing education is required to practice this speciality. In New Zealand, a child-centered play therapist will study, train, and practice over five years under clinical supervision. Jane trained in Circle of Security (a relationship based parenting model) and also works for Perinatal Support Nelson.

RISE Clinical Leader Lois Hewetson says that CCPT is another option.

“Several clinicians at RISE work with children and use different therapeutic approaches, all of which are standard approaches in the family violence field of work. Now with the addition of child-centered play therapy through Jane’s work, we are really fortunate to have a range of modalities for helping these young clients.”

Parents are part of Jane’s process through regular discussions around concerns and achievements. Together, they look for signs of success that the play therapy is helping, such as the child being happier and an increase in self-esteem.

“CCPT offers children a way to work through difficulties they have experienced and allows for them to increase self-confidence, develop new coping skills, regulate their emotions, and gain a greater sense of self.”

RISE delivers services into Nelson, Motueka, Golden Bay, Marlborough, Kaikoura, and the West Coast.
Please contact our Nelson office for information.

Nelson Office

Level 3, 295 Trafalgar Street

Phone: 03 548 3850

Txt: 027 548 3850


Motueka Office

15b Courtney Street

(site of Jack Inglis Care Home)

Phone: 03 528 8976