Unleashing the power of play: A psychotherapist's perspective

In a world that often demands seriousness and productivity, it's easy for adults to forget the immense value of play in their lives.


I am a firm believer in the transformative power of play and its profound impact on our mental and emotional well-being.

The transformative power of play 

Play: Not just for children

As Dr Stuart Brown aptly puts it, "The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression." Play is not limited to the realm of children, it is a fundamental aspect of being human that should continue throughout our lives. Engaging in purposeless, all-consuming, and fun activities is not just an indulgence, but an essential component of maintaining good mental health.

Breaking free from outcome-oriented thinking

In a society driven by success and outcomes, we often forget that play thrives in the absence of such pressure. Adults must be mindful to engage in activities where the focus is on the process, not the outcome. Whether it's a game, a hobby, or an adventure, the benefits of play are maximised when we allow ourselves to immerse fully in the experience without worrying about winning, impressing others, or meeting specific expectations. So think about going to gather some sticks in the woods just for the sake of it, rather than coming back to count them, journal about it, and tell others about the event!

Reconnecting with the childlike wonder

It's crucial to distinguish between being childlike and childish. Being childlike refers to approaching life with curiosity, wonder, and openness. Embracing this mindset enables us to rediscover the world from a fresh perspective, unburdened by preconceived notions and judgments. On the other hand, being childish implies immature and irresponsible behaviour, which is not what we are aiming for. 

Embracing playful alternatives

As a psychotherapist, I often encourage my clients to incorporate playful solutions into their daily lives. Here are some suggestions that can infuse your life with light, joy, and healing:

  • Blindfold drawing: Try blindfold drawing to silence your inner critic and tap into your innate creativity.
  • Dance like your favourite animal: Dance freely, allowing your body to express itself in the playful manner of your favourite animal.
  • Dance to opposite tunes: Experiment with dancing to songs that don't match the typical style. For instance, waltzing to Lizzo's tunes can be a delightful twist.
  • Get messy: Revisit your childhood by finger painting or colouring in a colouring book, embracing the messiness and fun of the experience.

Rediscovering the joy of play

Incorporating play into your daily routine can rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. As you reconnect with your inner child and embrace the wonder and exploration that comes with it, you'll notice a positive shift in your perspective and overall well-being.

To deepen your understanding of play's impact on the brain, imagination, and soul, I recommend exploring the work of Dr Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan in their book Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul (2009). This insightful read can help you appreciate the scientific basis behind the importance of play.

As a therapist, I wholeheartedly advocate for play as a powerful tool for personal growth and emotional healing. Let go of societal conditioning, embrace your childlike wonder, and let play infuse your life with joy and vitality. Remember, play is not a luxury; it is an essential aspect of living a fulfilling and balanced life. So, go ahead and play – your mental and emotional well-being will thank you for it!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, EC2A
Written by Laura Prendiville, MSC, MCCP.
London, EC2A

I'm an accredited Contemporary Psychotherapist. I use creative and dynamic approaches to working with trauma, anxiety and relationship challenges.

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