Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Jungian Play Therapy in Elementary Schools

Allan, J., & Brown, K. (1993). Jungian Play Therapy in Elementary Schools. Elementary School Guidance and Counseling. 28 (1), 30-41.

This article discusses the Jungian approach to play therapy and provides a case study to exemplify its methods. As a (or perhaps the) proto-humanistic psychologist, Jung believed that growth and transformation are the main drives in the psyche. Thus, counseling involves mainly providing a safe and protective setting in which these internal processes can propel a child into change. This so-called self-healing archetype requires a healthy connection between the child's conscious and unconscious worlds. Therapy is thus also aimed at creating such a connection.

Jungian play therapy identifies three major themes or stages through which a child's play evolves: chaos, struggle, and resolution. It is through the progression of this resolution that the ego develops a sense of control and mastery as it learns to mediate the "struggle of opposites." Towards the end of therapy, common themes become construction, reparation, and healing.

Jungian play therapy is directive in its counseling style and makes use of interpretation interventions to "deepen affective expression." This is received much more positively by the child if it is initiated after a strong therapeutic relationship of rapport is established. This point and others are illustrated in the case study of a third grader with aggressive behavior problems. His sand play had a recurrent theme of "good guys" struggling against "bad guys." When, later in therapy, this theme was interpreted as analogous to his own feelings of isolation and confliction, he accepted it and showed remarkable change in the next session. In the next sand world he made, there was a fenced off area where kids could go and nothing could happen to them. It is argued that this opportunity to release his feelings allowed the child's positive, integrating mechanisms to guide him to growth, and that the direct interpretations expedited this process.

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