February 7, 2014

The Home-Based Play Therapist: Tips, Tricks, and Toys

By Ana Tindall, MA, LPC, RPT, CTS, IMH-II - Guest Blogger

After spending six years completing home visits with families in impoverished homes in Detroit, MI in both a research and therapy capacity, I have compiled a list of tips, tricks and toys for home-based play therapy.


     Have a safety buddy. Your buddy doesn’t need to know where you are at all times. It is nice to have a safety buddy when you know you are going into a potentially unsafe situation, such as having called CPS the week prior and being unsure how the family will react or knowing an abusive spouse will be in the house.    

When possible park your car in the street and in the direction of your exit. Parking in the driveway allows for you to get blocked in or makes it difficult to leave in an emergency.  

Keep your car with at least a half a tank of gas. If you need to get away from a situation, fumes in your gas tank are not going to last long.

     Put your purse in the trunk and try not to leave valuables in sight within your car.

     Keep your phone and keys on your person at all times! Toys can be replaced, and can be left behind, if needed. You can’t be replaced!

     Be mindful of the balance between the client’s right to confidentiality and your own professional protection. If conducting a play therapy session in a child's bedroom, keep the door half open. It only takes one parental complaint regarding inappropriate physical touching for your career to be over. 

     Finally, and most importantly, trust your gut. If a situation makes you uncomfortable or you get a funny feeling simply call the family and ask to reschedule.


Summers can be hot! Keep a cooler in your car with an icepack for your water bottle, deodorant (many of my families don’t have AC and no one wants a stinky therapist), and sunscreen along with your lunch.

Keep an eye out for a safe place to use the restroom such as a fast-food restaurant or coffee place. Try to use public restrooms over a client’s restroom.

     Pandora and Spotify are great to download as ways to keep you company while driving. Books on CD are also great.


     I based my toy collection for home visiting from Garry Landreth’s suggestions in Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship (2012). 
     I use a carry on suitcase as my toys’ home. The wheels allow for easy transportation out of your trunk and into your client’s home.

Sheet bags (the plastic ones with zippers) are great for organizing 
     toys into categories.

     A crayon box in one of the external pockets is a nice way to keep your 
     art materials separate from the toys. Don’t use crayons in hot weather as they melt.

Ana Tindall, MA, LPC, CTS, IMH-II, RPT is an Integrated Health Care Therapist providing therapy to children and their families. She is a 2012 graduate of the Association for Play Therapy Leadership Academy and is currently serving on the APT Public Awareness Task Force and has served on the APT RPT/S Review committee and the MIAPT Nomination and Elections committee.

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