Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Empowering Techniques of Play Therapy

Griffith, M. (1997). Empowering Techniques of Play Therapy: A Method for Working with Sexually Abused Children. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. 19 (2), 130-42.

This article, like many others, begins with a brief survey of play therapy theory. It is remarked that play is the natural medium of expression for children and that sexual abuse seems to block many basic developmental needs. Treatment goals are outlined and plotted along a pattern which the process of therapy follows. A case study is provided to articulate these points and exemplify the "five stages" of play therapy. These stages are the establishment of the therapeutic relationship, the later exploratory stage (in which regressive and repetitive behaviors often appear), the limit-setting stage (in which the child tests the boundaries and safety of the therapeutic setting), the growth stage (see below), and the termination stage. Treatment goals in the growth stage involve confronting the "four characteristics of sexual trauma" which are sexual traumatization, stigmatization, betrayal, and powerlessness. Sexual traumatization can lead to confusion between sexuality and affection, confusion about sexual norms, age-inappropriate sexual knowledge, and sexual behavior. It is believed that through the use of empowering techniques of play therapy (expressive/imaginative play and non-direction), the emotional distress of sexual abuse can be relieved and normal psychological development can resume.

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