Services for Children & Families

Aleksandra Gosteva is a Registered Educational Psychologist with the New Zealand Psychologists Board, a Full Member of the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS), and a member of the NZPsS Institute of Educational and Developmental Psychology. Aleksandra is also a qualified and registered Play Therapist and Arts Therapist. Aleksandra has had over 17 years’ experience working with toddlers, children, parents and caregivers with a wide range of educational, developmental and emotional issues, including learning difficulties, Attention Deficit Disorder and a variety of complex developmental conditions and disabilities. For almost seven years, she has led the Child and Family Play Therapy Centre, a private psychology practice which specialises in supporting children and families through Play and Arts Therapy. She has also worked as a Psychologist for a large Multidisciplinary Early Intervention Centre. Aleksandra frequently collaborates with education settings, agencies, and mental health organisations to help them deliver high quality play therapy programmes to support children’s psychological health and wellbeing. She specialises in addressing a range of difficulties in children and parents including:

  • Behaviour problems
  • Social and emotional difficulties
  • Self-esteem concerns
  • Attention and self-regulation problems
  • Learning difficulties and study skills
  • Anxiety and phobia issues
  • Parenting support
  • Bullying
  • Trauma

Why Play Therapy?

Play therapy can be defined as “the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development” (Association for Play Therapy US, 2020). More simply put, child play therapy is a way of being with the child that honours their unique developmental level and looks for ways of helping in the “language” of the child – play. Licensed mental health professionals therapeutically use play to help their clients, most often children ages three to 12 years, to better express themselves and resolve their problems.

Mental health agencies, schools, hospitals, and psychologists have utilised Play Therapy as a primary intervention or as supportive therapy for:

  • Behavioural problems, such as anger management, grief and loss, divorce and abandonment, and crisis and trauma.
  • Behavioural disorders, such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), autism or pervasive developmental, academic and social developmental, physical and learning disabilities, and conduct disorders.

Research shows that Play Therapy is an effective mental health approach, regardless of age, gender, or the nature of the problem, and works best when a parent, family member, or caregiver is actively involved in the treatment process (APT, 2019).

For more information on play therapy, click here.

What is Arts Therapy?

The creative arts therapies are based on the idea that creativity enhances the well-being of all people and is a natural aspect of all cultures and human experience. It is an experiential psychotherapeutic approach utilising many creative modalities within a therapeutic relationship with a trained therapist. It is holistic – attending to emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual well-being – and aligns well with indigenous models of health and well-being.
Practitioners calling themselves art therapists have been trained to work therapeutically using the visual arts, including drawing, painting, and sculpture. Practitioners who utilise creative modalities other than or as well as visual art, work therapeutically with a variety of creative modalities such as with dance/movement or drama and may use titles such as dance/movement therapist, dramatherapist, arts therapist, multi-modal creative arts therapist. Other creative modalities used by therapists may include: music, voice and sound; narrative and story-telling; creative writing and poetry; clay work; and sandplay therapies.

Contemporary neurobiological research into trauma suggests that trauma has a powerful physical component and thus the first step in addressing trauma should attend to embodied trauma responses. Because the creative arts therapies are based on body awareness they can effectively address trauma and emotional and physical dysregulation. Creative arts therapies can increase resilience by improving the sense of agency and self-understanding through the ability to express feelings symbolically. This can give new perspectives on oneself and on one’s world view, which is essential in the recovery process (ANZACATA, 2019).

Research / Scholarly / Creative Works

Gosteva, A. (2019, August, 28). Working with culturally and linguistically diverse children who have experienced trauma: A neurosequential therapeutics approach to play therapy for helping children heal. [Conference workshop for the New Zealand Psychological Society]. Rotorua, New Zealand.

Gosteva, A. (2019, August, 11). Posttraumatic play in children: Child centred play therapy strategies for helping children heal. [Workshop for the Arts Therapy Professional Development Group]. Christchurch, New Zealand.

Gosteva, A. (2019, May, 9). Posttraumatic play in children: Child centred play therapy-informed strategies for helping children heal. [Workshop for the Arts Therapy Professional Development Group]. Christchurch, New Zealand.

Gosteva, A. (2019, April, 11). Child centred play therapy for children who have experienced trauma: strategies for helping children heal. [Workshop for the New Zealand Psychological Society]. Christchurch, New Zealand.

Journal Articles

Gosteva A. and Sutherland D. (2018) Child-centred play therapy strategies for promoting self-regulation in children with developmental disabilities. The First Years Nga Tau Tuatahi: New Zealand Journal of Infant and Toddler Education 20(2): 27-33.


Gosteva, A., & Sutherland, D. (2019). Playgrounds for learning, communicating and playing. In L. Couper & D. Sutherland (Eds.), Learning and connecting in school playgrounds (pp. 30–46). New York, NY: Routledge