How Do I Document Play Therapy?

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One of the things lots of therapists ask me about is how they should write notes when they have a specialization. The quick answer is that you don't really need to do anything differently! But let me explain more...

When you're providing a specific type of therapeutic intervention, that intervention has a purpose. For example, if you do equine therapy you are doing that for a reason. There is something about the interaction that engages clients and makes a clinical impact.

Similarly with something like art therapy or play therapy. When you provide play therapy, for example, the method is different but the purpose is the same. 

You may use dolls to offer reframes or to explain boundaries. You may use a game to encourage positive verbal communication and manage anger. You may use an art project to process trauma or to assess family interaction. 

The point is not really the method. Therapists use all sorts of methods to obtain the same result. CBT, psychoanalysis, the Gottman Method, DBT are all different ways to provide interactions and connect with your client.

Of course, if you do follow a specific method that makes listing your interventions even easier because of the shared language that is common among many methodologies. However, you can apply those same interventions in many ways.

So rather than simply writing "Therapist played with child using figurines" you could write something like "Therapist used figurines in sand tray to assist client with identifying common interactions within the family and practice alternative ways to respond to parents."

Rather than writing "Therapist utilized art therapy with client" you could write "Therapist assigned client art project to identify triggers to anger."

In these instances it's very clear you're not "just playing" but instead are providing clear, therapeutic interventions. 

So the next time you are writing notes for play therapy (or art therapy anything else "Out of the Box") ask yourself why you chose to use that modality. What was the goal you wanted to achieve? And that's what to focus on in your note.

What other tips or pointers do you have? Any further questions? Feel free to drop us a line in the comments below!

And then keep doing all that awesome work you do.