Family Play Therapy .

Eliana Gil, Ph.D., RPT-S

Program Goals

Play has universal appeal to children and it is their preferred mode of communication. Using play they express themselves, learn new skills, problem-solve, and develop an increased sense of comfort.  Yet to imagine that children are the only people who can benefit from play is short-sighted and limiting. Adults, older youth, and seniors can also feel themselves drawn to play activities and may find it a much easier and enjoyable way to communicate and reach out to each other. In these hectic times, with many adult demands, play therapy can be a useful way of giving all family members an opportunity to convene, play, talk, and enjoy each other’s company while addressing difficult topics.

This workshop is designed to provide an in depth understanding of how play therapy strategies can be utilized in the assessment and treatment of all families. Dr. Eliana Gil will provide a rationale for using play therapy in the assessment and treatment of families, and present a variety of play techniques that can be integrated with traditional family therapy sessions. This Institute will offer intimate and personal instruction in a fun and creative atmosphere. The primary mode of learning will be experiential, followed by small group discussions of clinical videotapes. Participants will have opportunities to learn how play therapy elicits metaphors that be amplified to deepen the client’s understanding and can inform treatment planning at the same time.

Following the Institute, participants will be able to:

  • provide a rationale for combining play therapy and systems theories.
  • list three curative factors of play therapy.
  • understand the benefits of utilizing family puppet interviews.
  • define a family play genogram and know two ways it can be used for assessment and for treatment purposes.
  • define the term “amplifying questions.”
  • articulate two reasons to stay within the metaphors.
  • define a family scribble and list two ways it can be useful for assessment and/or treatment purposes.
  • describe a family sand tray and identify two aspects that might reveal underlying family dynamics.

Course Schedule

10 – 11:30                   Rationale for integration of play with families

11:30 – 11:45              Break

11:45 – 12:45              Family play therapy assessment activities

12:45 – 1: 45               LUNCH

01:45 - 3:15                Family Play Therapy therapy activities

3:15 - 3:30                  Break

3:30 – 5:00                 Clinical Case Discussions

Family Play Therapy References:

Arkell, K. (2010). Assessment & treatment activities for children, adolescents, and families Vol 2, 1-119.

Daley, L. P.,  Richard B. Miller,B., Bean, R. O., & Oka, M.  (2018) Family System Play Therapy: An Integrative Approach, The American Journal of Family Therapy, 46:5, 421-436, DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2019.1570386

Gil, E. (2016). Play in family therapy (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press.

Gil, E., & Sobol, B. (2005). Engaging Families in Therapeutic Play. In C. E. Bailey (Ed.),

Children in therapy: Using the family as a resource (pp. 341–382).

Lowenstein, L., & Sprunk, T. P. (2010). Creative family therapy techniques: Play and art-based activities to assess and treat families.

Papernow, P. L. (2018). Clinical Guidelines for Working with stepfamilies: What family, couple, individual, and child therapists need to know. Family Process, 57(1), 25–51.

Smith, T., Norton, A. N., & Marroquin, L. (2021).  Virtual Family Play Therapy: A Clinician’s Guide to Using Directed Family Play Therapy in Telemental Health, J. of Contemporary Family Therapy, October: 1007/s10591-021-09612-7.

Eliana Gil, Ph.D. is an AAMFT Clinical Member in private practice. She is a founding partner of Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education in Fairfax, Virginia.  She has begun and developed two sexual abuse treatment programs in the Northern Virginia area and has worked in the area of child abuse and prevention for the last thirty-eight years.  She is a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor and a Registered Art Therapist. She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and the National Resource Center on Child Sexual Abuse. Dr. Gil is an adjunct faculty member of Virginia Tech's family therapy program where she has taught classes in family play therapy, play therapy, and child maltreatment. She has also taught Family Play Therapy classes at University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

Instructor Contact Information:

Name:  Eliana Gil, Ph.D.



Phone:  202-257-2783