Columns and Editorials

Ask Dr. Missy, Ph.D., Child Counselor & Feelings Helper

Melissa Martin

Play therapy for a rambunctious boy


Dear Dr. Missy:  What is play therapy? The school counselor recommended play therapy for my 6 year-old son because he is being unruly at school. He’s refusing to follow rules, talks when the teacher talks, and tries to be the class clown. He’s not aggressive or mean. He’s very smart and has friends at school. He’s strong-willed, but very loving. Has a big imagination and high energy.

–Perplexed Parents


Dear Perplexed Parents:  I’m glad you are considering play therapy to help change your son’s disruptive behaviors. Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults.


“Play therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all applying the therapeutic benefits of play. Play therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own problems,” according to the Association for Play Therapy.

Association for Play Therapy

The Association for Play Therapy (APT) is a national professional society established in 1982 to foster contact among mental health professionals interested in exploring and, when developmentally appropriate, applying the therapeutic power of play to communicate with and treat clients, particularly children.


Visit the Ohio Association for Play Therapy (Ohio APT) for more information at

Ohio Association for Play Therapy | Welcome to Ohio …

The Ohio Association for Play Therapy (Ohio APT) is a chartered branch of the Association for Play Therapy. Ohio APT is a not-for-profit incorporation that is dedicated to providing a forum for the professional growth and development of the play therapist, providing training to the mental health community, and advocating for appropriate mental …

The play therapy room offers a child-friendly environment with therapeutic puppets, dollhouses, multicultural dolls, sand tray or rice tray, children’s books, blocks, animal figures, and other relevant items. These toys are selected to allow the child to play out themes of daily living and address concerns and problems, safely express their feelings,  and utilize creative expression.

Play therapy may also include the parents and siblings for family counseling. The counselor can provide parenting skills sessions for adults.

Play therapy is implemented as a treatment of choice in mental health agencies and schools and is backed by research. Many states have an Association for Play Therapy. Before scheduling counseling with a child therapist, ask if she/he is trained in play therapy.


It sounds like your delightful son likes to be the center of attention. He needs to learn how to manage his energy and his body. Boys are usually more rambunctious than girls at this age. He may experience periods of boredom in the classroom and may need specific stimulating activities. The play therapist will consult with the teacher and the school counselor to develop treatment goals.


Your son needs a daily activity at home before and after school to burn up some of his energy. The play therapist will help him develop a plan with ways to listen and pay attention without distracting classmates.


I suggest the following picture books for your son.


The Zach Rules Series by William Mulcahy includes 5 books: Zach Gets Frustrated, Zach Apologizes, Zach Makes Mistakes, Zach Hangs In There,and Zach Stands Up (Free Spirit Publishing,


I can discern your son’s strengths and talents by what you wrote. He’s creative, social, funny, and has long-lasting energy. Celebrate his abilities and work on what he needs to change or improve.


If the problem persists, meet with the teacher and school counselor to discuss an assessment and testing with the school psychologist.


Melissa Martin, Ph.D. is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, and Behavioral Health Consultant. Email your questions to the Scioto County Candor at and put “Dr. Missy” in the subject line.


Ask Dr. Missy is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.