Play Therapy for Children Coping with Sexual Abuse Trauma

Children are naturally drawn to play, so it only makes sense to incorporate therapeutic interventions through play. Children learn verbal, social and behavioral skills through play that can be utilized during therapy sessions, especially with children experiencing a traumatic event in which they do not completely understand, such as sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse survivors are bombarded with overwhelming emotions that they likely do not understand, and therefore cannot consciously explain through facilitation and expression.

Fondling, Britton & Hanson (2006) found that, “traumatic vents overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life… Traumatic events shatter the victims sense of safety in the world, forcing the trauma survivor to question fundamental beliefs about self, others, and relationships. ” (p. 4) Through play, children can demonstrate these experiences with the use of toys and artistic materials, while therapists and often parents observe, and occasionally take part in the therapy sessions.

Child-centered Play Therapy, Deadlier Play Therapy and Filial Play Therapy are all theoretical perspectives linked to Play Therapy, each with their own variations and specifications, used pending on the individualized needs of each child. While working with children who have been sexually victimized, it is necessary to evaluate their cognitive and emotional development, as this will undoubtedly affect which type of therapy is most appropriate, as well as what materials should be provided in the playroom to ensure they meet their developmental needs.

This paper will review literature over the past 1 0 years and will explore the different theoretical perspectives linked to Play Therapy. This paper will explore literature reviewing child sexual abuse victims and their experiences tit Play Therapy, as well as discuss the role of non-offending parents in their child’s therapy sessions. Theoretical Perspectives Child-Centered Play Therapy Child-centered Play Therapy is a humanistic modality that refers to the nondestructive approach in helping children with both emotional and behavioral difficulties.

A nondestructive approach does not require a therapist to be passive, but instead allows the child to take the lead in their own healing process. It is the therapists’ job to build a warm, trusting relationship with the child, as well as to set up the playroom with unique, appropriate toys that are eared specifically towards each child. Roy et. AAA (2013) stated that play therapists should provide age-appropriate materials that give children the opportunity to symbolically express themselves and do not have instructions on how to be used.

The toys selected should, “facilitate a wide range of creative expression, engage children’s interests, facilitate expressive and exploratory play, allow exploration and expression without fertilization, allow success without prescribed structure, allow for noncommittal play and have a sturdy construction for active use” (Roy et. AAA, 2013, p. 45) Virginia Saline, the creator of the non-directive approach in play therapy believed that “this method required the understanding that each child has the capacity to problem solve and act responsibly… That] this type of therapy is gradual and not something that should be rushed” (Brooke, 2006, p. 66) Deadlier Play Therapy The second theoretical perspective of Play Therapy is Deadlier Play Therapy. According to Brooke (2006), before understanding the Deadlier approach on play therapy, it is necessary to understand the Deadlier approach to counseling and psychology. Deadlier Theory was based off of the ideas of

Alfred Adler and “assumes that peoples’ behavior is intentional and with purpose. The purpose of misbehaver in children could be to gain attention or power, seek revenge, or express feelings of inadequacy (p. 67) This being said, Deadlier Play Therapy focuses on giving a child the opportunity to understand and therefore, make better decisions about their self, the world around them and their relationships.

An Deadlier Play Therapists’ job includes assessing and recording observations of a child’s play over a period of time, having discussions with the child where the therapist restates key findings hat occurred in the child’s play, and then reflects on these findings with the child to build an understanding of the behaviors taking place in play (p. 67) Filial Therapy A third theoretical perspective of Play Therapy is called Filial Therapy; a co-educational method developed by Bernard and Louis Gurney in the sass. Brooke, 2006) This type of therapy links both children’s play and parental involvement, ideally creating a situation in which the parents are key elements in their child’s therapeutic interventions. The parent is given tools and strategies to recognize behaviors in their child’s play both at home and n an educational setting. Literature Young children may not be able to vocalizes their own emotions towards a specific experience; however, children do feel pain, and can understand when they feel confused, frightened or inferior in a relationship with an adult.

A child who experiences sexual abuse can understand that they are not comfortable with what is happening to them, but since the child does not have an adult understanding of sex, or the vocabulary necessary to express their emotions, they are not able to grasp an understanding of why what they are being subjected to is wrong, and how to share these thoughts and linings. Fondling, Britton & Hanson (2006) found that, Traumatized children exhibit a type of play that is distinct from the play behaviors of other children… Lay therapy has been proven to be a developmentally sensitive treatment modality that draws upon the communicative function of play in the lives of young children (p. 8) Play therapy allows for a child to consciously or subconsciously project and demonstrate their feelings and experiences using different toys and art materials. Because sexually victimized children are often unable to communicate verbally, therapists use play therapy quenches to both get a better understanding of the child’s emotions, and to help find ways to assist that child in their coping and recovery process.

In a literature review, Cabstand & Rexes (2005) found that there are a wide range of symptoms that surviving child sexual abuse victims exhibit, such as, inappropriate sexualities behavior, pervasive feelings of shame and guilt, problems relating to gender and identity, hyperventilate, lace of age- appropriate social skills, mental inflexibility, decreased stress tolerance sudden fear of bathing, sleep disturbance, and somatic complaints of the lower gastrointestinal and genital areas. P. ) Cabstand & Rexes (2005) found that within the span of 9 months of using play therapy with child sexual abuse victims, the children’s levels anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and sexual distress decreased significantly. The children’s levels of anger, dissociation, over dissociation, fantasy, sexual concerns, and sexual preoccupations did not decrease, suggesting that treatment may need to be extended and more individualized focusing closely on each child and their specific concerns.

Literature reviewed by Hill (2006) found that the level of support that a child sexual abuse victim receives from their non-offending aren’t(s) is possibly the most influential factor in their recovery. Children who have been sexually victimized have had their innocence taken away from them, which leads them to view their environment and relationships in a different way than they may have previously. Their curiosity and ability to trust strangers has likely been destroyed, so for a therapist to initially gain the child’s trust can be difficult.

Hill (2006) looked at the importance of including parents in child sexual abuse victim’s therapy and found that in the early stages of therapy, children were reluctant to leave their parents to enter the largo with the therapist alone. Parents were initially included in the therapy to allow the child to “settle in” to individual play sessions. Children found it to be equally difficult to transition between a session where a parent is present to an individual session where it is just the child and the therapist. Hill, 2009) The focus of Filial Therapy is directly on the trusting relationship between the child and the parent. It uses the relationship to help the child through weekly, structured play sessions between the parent and the child. In these sessions, the therapist directs the parents and gives them non-directive tragedies to use while in the playroom with their child. Hill (2009) found that parents embedded a variety of beliefs and concerns that influenced their role in their child’s therapy.

They include, parent’s belief that they do not know how to help; parent’s belief that the child will listen to someone else and parent’s need for an independent expert opinion. There are also factors that influence whether or not Filial Therapy is going to be entirely beneficial for a child, such as a child wanting the chance to speak in confidence. Some children may feel uncomfortable disclosing personal information while their aren’t is present in the therapy session, which Hall (2009) found to be directly linked to the child’s age.

The older the child was, the less likely it was that they would disclose personal details about their experiences with a parent present; however, when parent and child did work together, the findings showed that because parent and child worked through problems together, the children’s attachments become more secure, and profound family relationships are enhanced. Application Starting at a young age, children spend the majority of their time in educational settings, starting in daycare and continuing into preschool, integrated and then moving onto grade school.

The professionals working in these educational settings should understand the signs that pretend play can display when dealing with a child sexual abuse victim. As stated by Brown, Barack & Mulls (2008), In an educational setting, it is the school counselor’s job to formulate strategies that aid in the detection and prevention of child sexual abuse… School counselors are charged with helping sexually abused children by recognizing sexual abuse indicators based on a child’s symptomatic and/or behavior, and understanding how this trauma may affect children in the school setting. P. 68) Now that it has been shown that child sexual abuse victims play differently in comparison to other children, it is important for these Filial Play Therapy techniques to be introduced into the education system. The educators who are working with these children on a daily basis need to be informed, just as parents do on the different non-directive techniques that they can use in order to identify a child who is being victimized by sexual abuse. Educators should have the knowledge necessary to identify if/when a child is displaying behaviors during play that are commonly related to child sexual abuse victims.

Future Research In research relating to affects of Play Therapy on child sexual abuse victims, there is little research that assists therapists in appropriate toy selection and use. Current research focuses on the importance of developmentally appropriate materials being provided for each individual child; however, Roy et. AAA (2013) found there to be little research done on toy variation, and suggested that future studies explore the exact length of time a child utilizes a specific toy, and link the length of toy use to the child’s depth of expression.

Additionally, there is an abundance of research discussing the benefits of a others involvement in their child’s therapy; however, there is no current research discussing the relationship between father and child in therapy, focusing on gender and relationship as a key factor. It would be beneficial to also look at the negative aspects Of involving parents, both mother and father in therapeutic interventions. Conclusion A child who coping with the trauma related to sexual abuse, depending on their developmental level and/or experience, may not be able to vocalizes their emotions and feelings.