Play and Play Therapy

Play and Play Therapy

Debra Leigh Walls Rosenstein (Mercer University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-068-2.ch049
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Play is the most powerful, the purest, and the most effective form of communication language and self-expression available (walls, 1982). The concept of therapy through play was derived from Melanie Klein (1921) and Anna Freud (1952). Unfortunately, play is a rapidly declining art due in large part to our ever-changing, fast paced and technologically driven society where recesses are being cut and children often turn to video games instead of the outdoors. With this in mind, incorporating play into the daily academic life of children is critical and vital for their total well being – physically, socially and intellectually. The focus of this chapter is to explain the importance of play, provide a review of the literature, and discuss the theoretical framework, techniques and current trends. Special attention will be focused on how educators can utilize play therapy to enhance self-esteem, social, interpersonal and problem solving skills and reduce the everyday stress that surrounds our children today.
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“At first, any playground seems a confusion of noise and movement, but patient observation can reveal a rich and dynamic oral culture.” Elizabeth Grugeon, 2005



What does play have to do with play therapy? Play is an essential part of childhood. It is a fundamental event in growth and development from infancy (Harvey, 1980). Play refers to a spontaneous, voluntary, enjoyable activity; an attitude or sprit; a vital element in the total learning process; something not associated with work; a response to life and one in which the child can be involved actively or passively (Arnaud, 1975; Baker, 1975; Hartley & Goldenson, 1957). As previously stated, I argue that play is the purest, most effective form of communication language and self-expression available (walls, 1982). Through play, a child reaches out into his/her world of intellect, emotion, and physical space in effort to gain control in the surrounding environment (Baker, 1975; Landreth, 1991; Petrillo & Sanger, 1980). Play is a major part of a child’ s life; and it is the most complete of all the educational processes in terms of influencing the development of emotions, intellect, and physical growth (Elkind, 2007). In a 2007 statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg of the University of Pennsylvania refers to play as essential for healthy brain growth and development leading to imagination and creativity, as well as prompting resilience in children (Miller, 2009). Recently, there has been a tremendous decline in outdoor and creative/imaginative play among children. Hofferth, (2010) states there is little, if any, time spent playing outside compared to growing amounts of time that children are playing on computers and video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that active and creative play help children achieve success more effectively than sitting in front of the computer or television (Elkind, 2007; Miller, 2009). Play is the language of childhood. It is a critical element of healthy child development. Well known play researcher, Dr. Joe Frost (2008), states that “spontaneous play is the delicate dance of childhood that strengthens the mind and body, and nourishes the soul.” The results of a 2009 study on school recess and its effects on group classroom behavior conducted by Romina Barros and her colleagues, Ellen Silver and Ruth Stein, suggests children who were provided with daily recess of at least fifteen minutes in length had better classroom behavior reported by their teachers than children not given a daily recess.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Play Therapist: The play therapist is a professional trained from the mental health fields, such as psychology and social work. Play therapists may also practice in the school or hospital settings as school counselors or child life specialists. The play therapist must be knowledgeable on how play or how the lack of play can impact a child’s development.

Play Therapy Techniques: Some of the most effective techniques used in play therapy are puppet play, sand play, “dress –up” or costume play, water play, block play, telephone play, dramatic play, storytelling and bibliotherapy.

Settings: Dependent upon the needs of the individual child there are a variety of settings where play therapy can be used- individual and group settings, school settings, hospital settings and residential care settings.

Play: Play is the most powerful, the purest, and the most effective form of communication language and self-expression available. It is critical in a child’s physical, social and intellectual development.

Types of Play: There are many types of play which can be aligned with the child’s development. They are exploratory play, on looking play, solitary play, parallel play, associative play, cooperative play and competitive play.

Approaches to Play Therapy: There are several approaches of play therapy which are based on directive and nondirective therapies. They are psychoanalytic play therapy, release play therapy, relationship play therapy, nondirective play therapy and child-centered play therapy. The approach that the play therapist uses with a child is directly related to the specific training of the therapist.

Play Therapy: The utilization of play with a variety of toys, games and creative art techniques to allow and encourage children’s self-expression associated with their feelings and experiences while establishing a therapeutic relationship with the therapist.

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