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Play Therapy: Helping or Hurting?

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Caroline Kelly

on 4 January 2013

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Transcript of Play Therapy: Helping or Hurting?

Sandplay: Despicable. "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

--Plato (429-347 B.C.) Some children have experienced such traumatic events or illnesses, that they are left unable to speak or communicate in any way. Play Therapy Kits: An adult leaves an emotionally damaged child alone in a room with a sandbox, and several hundred figurines and toys. Helping or Hurting? YES NO NO Sometimes the only way to get these children to communicate is through play. The people that help children overcome even the toughest, most deep-seated issues, are certified child life specialists. Child Life Specialists are trained to help children and their families navigate the emotionally and physically demanding process of coping with hospitalization. Most, but certainly not all, child life specialists work in hospitals. Typically, the work centers on helping children and their families adjust to and cope with the hospital environment and the many events that happen during an admission. Child life specialists facilitate adjustment and coping through play, education and other activities that allow for mastery of the sometimes difficult procedures and changes happening in the patient's and family's lives. Play Therapy can be very necessary in several circumstances, and is used to counsel children who have experienced traumatic events, such as illness or a traumatic family life. Play therapists take the lead in a child’s recovery, and the good they do working with a sick child, is immeasurable. Since 2002, when the Florida Association for Play Therapy started producing the Play Therapy Kits (that I'm so upset about) certified child life specialists have become"accidentally" less important to the growth, healing the development of an ill child. This kit, costs $849!! Play therapy kits are boxes of varying sizes stocked with toys, writing utensils, paper, and dolls. The kits are of varying prices, and quality, which suggests that if your child is sick, the more you pay, the healthier they can get. The child is left alone to his or her own devices.
Sandplay, as this is called, can be helpful if a certified adult is present to lead the play in a productive direction. If the child is left alone with all of these figurines, and no direction for their play, there is a possibility that the child’s play could damage them more if they played out mentally disturbing scenes. The efficacy of psychological interventions for children has long been debated among mental health professionals; however, only recently has this issue received national attention, within the United States. Play therapy is a developmentally responsive intervention widely used by child life specialists and child therapists but often criticized for lacking an adequate research base to support its growing practice. Studies have been conducted to assess the overall efficacy of play therapy and to determine factors that might impact its effectiveness. Through the studies, play therapy has appeared to be equally effective across age, gender, and presenting issue. Children need to play. Whether a child is sick, or just uncommunicative, a child’s languages are play, and imagination. When a child life specialist has the time to work with a child, and play through their inner anxieties, the child has the opportunity to grow and develop as any child would. Why would anyone want to take away the priceless growth and development that only a certified child life specialist, or play therapist can provide? Play therapy kits are not conducive to the recovery of a sick child, or to the child of a sick person, nor to any other child with any other problem. Play therapy kits are not helping. Play therapy kits are HURTING. Moral of the story?
Play therapy is a non-intrusive method in which children are encouraged to work toward their own solutions to problems through play. This does not, however, mean that the child should be left alone in such a vulnerable state, or that an un-certified person should take control of a play session.
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