For children, therapy can be a scary thing. Seeing a therapist can be difficult for adults, as it requires trusting a new person and often entails divulging the most intimate details of one's life. Imagine, then, how difficult it must be for children to adjust to counseling. It is necessary to create a comfortable environment for them to feel safe and able to open up. In this research paper, I will be exploring the efficacy of play therapy in history and across many cases, from its first mention in publication in the seventies to today, when it is the focus of a major psychological association (APT), and is practiced with massive success by child psychologists everywhere.
According to Eliana Gil, Freud appears to be the first to incorporate play therapy into his sessions as early as 1909. Twenty years later, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein expounded upon this practice with theory regarding the psychoanalytic components of play therapy and its uses, including establishing rapport between patient and therapist and substituting for verbalization of desires (Gil 28). Play was considered highly symbolic of innermost wishes, and Klein saw in play therapy the potential to fully equate the methods to the technique of free association in adults (Gil 28). Following these theories was a period marked by the introduction of more structured therapy, with the therapist directing the focus of each session toward a solution. The cathartic effects of play therapy were still acknowledged, leading the way for theories to suggest that suppressed emotion due to traumatic experience could be released through play. In 1955, Hambridge postulated that the child could directly recreate the events of traumatic experience in play to help with the release of these emotions.
(This paragraph will include information on the formation of the Association of Play Therapists in 1982, as well as its role in today's therapy.)
In the eighties, solution-focused brief therapy was being practiced on children with great success because its aim is to allow the child to envision a better future, and describe what that future would entail so that a plan can be set up to attain that desirable end. Steve De Shazer developed what is referred to as the "miracle question", where the therapist asks the client to imagine waking up tomorrow and magically, miraculously, all of the problems which necessitated therapy are now gone (De Shazer). De Shazer urged the client to answer what the world would be like then, and how the client would know that the miracle had occurred and the problems were gone. This is often difficult for children to answer without some time or further prompting from the therapist, so although it is a useful part of solution-focused therapy, it has often proved a dead end in non-directive therapy where the child needs to lead the way to the solution to be successful.
Another solution-focused therapy technique in the eighties was the use of coping questions, questions which...