When Kids Want Out: Strategies For Play Therapists When Kids Try To Leave The Session Early

Nov 3, 2023

In this episode of the podcast, I answer an email from Nell in Maryland. Nell asks what to do when a child wants to leave the play therapy session early. When it rains, it pours… not only have I had a client do this to me this week, several therapists in my training cohort experienced the same scenario, so this is perfect timing to answer this email.

For starters, I outline the reasons behind a child’s wish to leave early. These often include resistance, insecure attachment, or feeling overwhelmed.

I discuss how to validate the child’s feelings and present neutral expectations with a specific timeframe remaining. By offering choices and giving them a sense of control over the remaining time, we empower the child while gently reinforcing the therapeutic boundaries.

Additionally, I share insights to help manage such situations, emphasizing the importance of understanding the child’s reasons, validating their emotions, and setting clear, concrete limits.

I hope this episode aids fellow practitioners in navigating similar scenarios. Keep exploring and cherishing the joy of positively impacting a child’s world. Email me at [email protected] with your question for discussion.

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  • Cochran, N., Nordling, W., & Cochran, J. (2010). Child-Centered Play Therapy (1st ed.). Wiley.
  • VanFleet, R., Sywulak, A. E., & Sniscak, C. C. (2010). Child-centered play therapy. Guilford Press.
  • Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed.). Brunner-Routledge.
  • Bratton, S. C., Landreth, G. L., Kellam, T., & Blackard, S. R. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT) treatment manual: A 10-session filial therapy model for training parents. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Benedict, Helen. Themes in Play Therapy. Used with permission to Heartland Play Therapy Institute.
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