Friday, March 7, 2008

Play Therapy with Sexually Traumatized Children

Kelly, M. M. (1995). Play Therapy with Sexually Traumatized Children: Factors That Promote Healing. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. 4 (3), 1-11.

This article begins with a survey of play therapy theory, with special attention given to various writer's takes on the merits of directive vs. non-directive approaches. It is argued that the treatment of sexually abused children often involves a series of "resolution cycles" characterized by the alternation of active work and periods of respite. Each of these cycles comprises three phases: testing the therapeutic relationship, readdressing the trauma, and protective distancing and denial. Another cycle will then be initiated only if there is trust and respect between the child and the therapist. Cycles can take as long as four or more sessions to complete, or may play out in the course of a single session (as is common in the beginning stages of therapy).

Two case studies (one with a 7 year old girl and another with an 8 year old boy) are provided to illustrate the progression of such cycles and to show that the denial phase usually occurs when the child's personal resources are exhausted. It is argued that a clear understanding of these cycles can furnish a therapist with more realistic expectations when working with sexually abused children.

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