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Play to Z Ltd

Play Therapy

Play Therapy Services

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 What is Play Therapy and how does it differ to other therapy?

Play therapy is a play-based method for helping children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems to help themselves. Unlike adult therapies where the focus is on talking, Play therapy enables children to explore issues creatively using play, their natural form of communication. Adults can also benefit from Play therapy which is creative and imaginative rather than cognitive, making it a great tool for building resilience and coping with and resolving difficulties. Play therapy is play with a therapeutic objective such as helping children undergoing change (due to class transition, a new sibling or family separation) to make better choices, improve self-esteem or increase confidence. The therapist takes a non-directive role giving the client an opportunity to ‘play out’ feelings and problems and a safe environment in which to work through issues at their own speed without judgement, interpretation and in control.

Who Can Benefit?

Play Therapy has been clinically shown to benefit children and adolescents suffering from a range of distress and emotional disturbance. Play Therapy is suitable for all children including those with learning, physical and sensory impairments.  It can help alleviate many emotional and behavioural problems, including children who are:

  • Not realising their full potential academically or socially
  • At risk of being excluded from school
  • Unhappy or having friend problems
  • Having nightmares or disturbed sleep
  • Suffering as a result of trauma
  • Victims of neglect or emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Witnesses of domestic violence or substance misuse
  • Autistic, have ADHD, life limiting illnesses or disabilities
  • Experiencing transitional, behavioural or anger management problems
  • Being bullied or are bullying
  • Adopted or fostered
  • Suffering because of separated/divorced parents
  • Suffering from anxiety, stress, or phobias
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Suffering from a loss or bereavement

Working creatively helps clients recognise, understand and appropriately express their emotions as well as developing positive strategies for taking control. While educational attainment is not the key focus, play therapy contributes to this as it supports children’s move from a fight or flight state to a just right state wherein they are ready to learn.

How does Play Therapy work?

Creating a warm and empathetic therapeutic relationship and safe environment are essential.  Using Axline’s principles of accepting the client as is, establishing a permissive environment with limited boundaries to keep the therapist and child safe, making the client aware of their responsibilities, following the child’s lead, reflecting back so that the client gains an insight, avoiding hurrying the process and giving the client responsibility to make choices, all help to build a strong and safe relationship. Unlike school and home, play therapy is able to offer something different as the child is free to choose which resources to play with and how, without even needing to tidy up! This can be immensely satisfying and fun and is a key step in giving children the confidence, self-belief and coping strategies to help change their lives.

Session Numbers, Timings and Confidentiality

Sessions typically last 45 minutes and the therapist helps the client to manage their time by providing a countdown. Consistency of time and day and confidentiality are key so while the client is free to share with others what they do within the session the therapist will only disclose details if there is a child protection or safeguarding concern.

Play therapy interventions may be short term (i.e. 12 weeks) or long term which could be a year or more. A Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is used to highlight areas of need and provide baseline data which will help determine how many sessions are offered. This SDQ is repeated after 8 weeks and at the end of play therapy to compare progress against the therapeutic objective.

The Play Therapy Toolkit

As children are naturally active and sensory they need opportunities to access enriching resources. Sue’s toolkit of play resources includes:

  • sand
  • messy play resources
  • clay and playdough
  • art materials and paint
  • puppets
  • dressing-up clothes and dolls house
  • musical instruments
  • collections of miniatures
  • books for storytelling
  • construction play resources
  • card games

What is Creative Arts Therapy?

Many young people and adults find creative arts much more effective than talking therapies. Art and creative materials such as paints, clay and music enable clients to express themselves, relax, develop self-confidence and coping strategies. The choice of resources made available is guided by the client.


Working with Groups

Where three or more children share the same challenges (such as friendship problems, poor self-esteem, new siblings or transitions) or same therapeutic objective (such as increased self-esteem or improved choices) it may be appropriate and more cost effective to provide Group Play Therapy. This tends to be more directive as the therapist will plan a series of activities over a period of six or more weeks, modelling appropriate behaviour and encouraging the group members to communicate effectively with each other within a safe and containing environment.  Group sessions typically last for an hour or more. Please contact Sue to find out more.

Ensuring Children’s Safety

Safety is paramount when working with children and young people. To ensure safe and professional practice Sue takes the following actions:

  • full clinical supervision
  • holds enhanced DBS Certificate
  • Level 1 Safeguarding Certificate
  • Prevent training qualified
  • holds Professional Liability Insurance
  • works within PTUK’s Ethical Framework
  • member of Play Therapy UK (PTUK)
  • CPD through ongoing training

About Sue Gascoyne 


Sue Gascoyne is an experienced and insightful Play and Creative Arts Therapist skilled in using creative media, particularly messy play with children. Her work with children aged 4 to 11 years and older, covers a range of issues including attachment, anger, self-esteem, behaviour, grief, illness and autism. Trained in Level 1 Theraplay which she regularly uses in her work with clients. and a specialist in sensory processing, clients access a wealth of messy play resources in addition to Sue’s extensive toolkit of puppets, role-play, musical instruments and art and crafts. Her warm empathetic approach ensures strong relationships enabling children to process difficult issues and develop mastery and self-esteem. Sue has an impressive track record of supporting children to bring about positive and lasting change and a readiness to engage in their learning.

With extensive experience of providing Play Therapy in schools and for private clients, Sue holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Play Therapy with Distinction and a Post Graduate Certificate I Therapeutic Play. As a published author with a specialism in sensory processing, messy play is common. Sue particularly favours the use of creative media such as paint, sand, messy play, clay and role-play, as with appropriate support these resources can be used by children to explore emotions, change, build resilience and mastery. Sue is a member of PTUK, holds an advanced DBS, has a certificate in Sensory Attachment Integration training and is currently undertaking a Diploma in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (online).

Sue works therapeutically with children either individually or in groups. Her background in sensory processing, autism and sensory attachment have also proved immensely helpful in working with autistic children or those with sensory attachment difficulties.



Sue worked with a child in our school for a period of 30 weeks.  She kept us fully up to date with his progress in both verbal and written form.  Sue was wonderful at talking to the parents, she ensured they understood what she was doing and helped to reassure them about the process.  Sue provided the class teacher with strategies in how to support the child she was working with during times of transition.  This was vital and ensured that the child’s behaviour didn’t impact on the class. 

Sue was professional in her manner and the other staff felt very comfortable having her work within the school on a regular basis.

Sue’s work has been invaluable in preventing a child being at risk of exclusion at our school. 

 Primary Headteacher

The Stables Play Therapy Room

As well as travelling to schools and clients we can also offer sessions within a charming converted stable building in Colchester. Located in the Hythe, our wonderful new Stables Play Therapy Room offers a light and airy inviting environment as well as views of, and opportunities for children to work outdoors in the natural environment.


Taking Play Therapy Outdoors

We're really excited to introduce a magical natural environment for children to engage in within their play therapy session. Typically with sessions beginning and ending in the Stables, children can then chose to explore outdoors: watch the frogs in the pond; venture down the woodland walk; pick daisies; climb on logs; enjoy the view from the treehouse; go on a nature trail collecting natural treasures to explore and make pictures in the Stable; transform messy materials; bounce on the trampoline; swing on a rope swing; play hide and seek; and notice the sounds and sights of the natural environment.

Spending time outside is enriching for the soul and as children explore, collect, play with, re-imagine and transform the environment this will develop their confidence, self-esteem, problem solving, mastery, wellbeing, sense of agency and attachment to Mother Nature. For those children who feel trapped indoors they will benefit from spending time and energy outdoors. For others, for whom imaginative play doesn't come naturally, this magical environment is sure to inspire.




Organisations - For schools and organisations located within a 5 mile radius of Colchester, the following standard fees band applies:

Initial assessment/interviews/report preparation       £45 -£65 plus VAT
Play Therapy Sessions                                                 £45 -£75 plus travel & VAT

Where a full day package is taken by organisations, so that 4 client sessions/interviews/report writing take place within a day, a discount is available to reflect shorter set-up times and lower fuel costs. For all other locations please contact us for a quote.

Private Individuals

For individuals attending The Stables Play Therapy Room a discounted rate of £40 - £65 plus VAT is offered. For all other locations please contact us for a quote.

Cancellation Policy

Unless otherwise agreed due to extenuating circumstances unfortunately missed sessions will be charged for.

Contact Details

Based in Colchester I am happy to work flexibly and can travel to a location near you or provide sessions at our welcoming Stable Play Therapy Room.

To discuss your needs, fees, find out if Play or Creative Art Therapy are right for your child or school and arrange an initial meeting, please contact Sue on the details below.


Work               01206 796722

Mobile             07932 174777

Play Therapy Resources

An array of Play Therapy resources are available to purchase.

Please download our leaflet for full information about the range of services on offer.