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Play Therapy and Educational Psychotherapy Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 3rd, 2020

Sliding Doors: Some Reflections on the Parent-Child’s Therapist Triangle

Adult psychotherapy is a process that is meant to involve the parents either by contacting them or by initiating them into the process. Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses playing as a form of learning or communication for victims of a particular incident. Play therapy is mostly used on children but parents may also be counseled using the same. It is also used to prevent or resolve psychological challenges. In addition, this therapy also helps the victim through the whole process of society integration, growth, and development. Play therapy may be useful in ensuring that several victims come back into the society as better people. For example, the parents who are willing to turn over a new leaf after separation from their children might use this therapy to achieve normalcy, especially to alleviate the trauma that affects the mother after the loss of a child.

Like any other form of psychotherapy, play therapy is relatively difficult for parents than it is for children because of the fact that therapeutic work with parents is controversial and it has also been considered to be optional for some of these parents (Gvion & Bar, 2014). This means that for the whole process to work, the parent, in this case the mother, must be ready and willing to take part in the ‘relationship-healing’ process. Any form of therapy, including play therapy, requires careful study and involvement of the parents. For instance, it has become clear that the child’s analysis cannot be conducted without dealing with the parents’ basic problems first.

Consequently, no child therapy can be successful without some level of significant change in the parent or family dynamics. Play therapy helps to reinvent a situation whereby the victim is able to relate his or her state or condition and learn from it. The therapy also shows them that the problem the clients are going through can be dealt with and they should not give up on their quest for being better parents. The purpose of the play therapy is to give the parents something to think about and learn from when the child is fully engaged. Depending on the kind situation the patient is going through, the therapist may manipulate the play therapy to convey a particular message. For most children, the mother figure is usually the closest thing they have a to a parental figure.

Therefore, as hard as it is for the mother to lose her child, it is also hard for the child to go on without her mother. Like in the triangular story of Noa, the therapist, and Noa’s mother, there is an existing gap between the parent and the child (Gvion & Bar, 2014). The play therapy session in this story may serve as a stepping-stone for the mother who is in the healing process. It also shows the mother that the most important step is getting to know the child even before she can think of ways to make up for the loss. Therapy would encourage the parent to get to know what the child thinks about the whole situation before moving forward. This helps to break the secrecy barrier that may exist between the mother and child. The mother should not rely on the notion that they know their child and are completely familiar with the child because they are their fresh and blood.

How Much is Too Much

Violence among children has been classified as a psychological problem that has its roots in the family-home setting where most violent kids, especially boys, grow up experiencing the violence themselves, thereby leaving them traumatized. For any therapist working with a violent child, there are four parameters, which the therapist should focus on including distance, temperature, space, and time. Within the society, other avenues where children may obtain their violent nature from have been identified such as the media. However, most therapists argue that these children are violent based on what they experience first-hand at home.

Cory was a boy who was referred to the clinic via Social Care by his guardian at the behest of his primary school teacher at the age of six because of his violent nature and destructive acts. These characters were traced back at home where the same was perpetrated by his father against his mother. Cory grew up experiencing violence day in day out and over time, these acts changed how Cory related with his peers and members of staff in school where he was reported to be violent. Cory’s behavior made it difficult for him to sustain relationships as well as poor performance in his studies. From these incidents, concern was raised by his family that Cory was slowly turning into his dad thereby prompting him to start psychotherapy. It was established that this behavior was only witnessed in school and not home.

The relationship between the parent and child offered an ‘illusory haven’, where the child’s negative behaviors are split off and projected onto others who view him as hostile and challenging. Cory’s mother offered the needed environment and haven for Cory to run away to emotionally. This was because he was her only son whom she treated as precious, yet fragile, and whom the mother held out many hopes for. This was the kind of parental figure he needed when growing up. On the other hand, the paternal figure that was present was the cause of the type of person Cory was slowly becoming (Slater, 2014). The unprocessed experiences on the relationship between Cory and his mother and her capacity to be receptive to his emotional needs would go on to be expressed in school and outside home through his violent nature. In this case, the violence in Cory’s nature can be attributed to the violent nature of the paternal figure he grew up knowing (Slater, 2014).

Nevertheless, Cory’s desire to be a ‘good boy’ was evident in his play therapy sessions. The relationship at home often fueled anger and aggression in the child because his identity remains undifferentiated from that of the mother. From research, aggression is one of the few ways in which a child can see himself in relation to others and perhaps this fact goes to explain the outburst of aggression and violence outside the home environment for Cory. Individuals who have experienced severe trauma can turn to thrill seeking, extrovert and dangerous behaviors as a way, on some level, of processing past traumatic experiences. Play therapy, in this case, would be employed to show Cory that he is a child, and the experiences at home did not have to define him and he should strive to appear better than a paternal object that he grew up knowing.

Educational Psychotherapy

Educational psychotherapy is a kind of therapy that depends on the successful learning and understanding of a child. This type of therapy might be useful either at home or at school. The integration between play psychotherapy and educational therapy as a means of treating children may be an important step towards understanding these children. For instance, play therapy provides a platform for the child to express themselves fully while educational psychotherapy provides the knowledge used in understanding these children. Children who grow up in violent homes end up having the same nature as that which is presented to them at home by either paternal or the maternal object (Best, 2014). This experience may consequently affect how they perform at school (in their academics) or how they relate to others in the school environment. A child will start to show aggressive signs as he grows and it is up to the mother to contain these emotions and feelings of anger and frustration, which may be triggered by past experiences at home.

According to educational psychotherapy, the quality of the attachment which the child creates with his/her primary caretaker (usually the mother) and with secondary caretaker affects the child’s sense of being valued, loved and secured, and his/her capacity to sustain rewarding relationships with others. On the other hand, this initial experience goes a long way towards developing the child’s ability to interact with his or her teachers. Therefore, if the relationship between a parent and a child if not well natured, it may lead to poor performance in school. If a child is experiencing violence back at home, his/her performance is bound to diminish significantly and this creates a need for play therapy. If a child is going through violence at home, it may be difficult for him/her to open up and talk about what he/she is going through. Therefore, play therapy may be applied in this case, as it is known to work best amongst children. Play is essential in the development of the child and in the lives of people of all ages. According to Educational psychotherapy, play encapsulates and develops a child’s capacity for imagination, and consequently the child’s creativity and a sense of self.

Placing children in an environment that is friendly and playful, helps to psychoanalyze them and detect where the problem lies. This may reveal the problems the child may be going through at home which may be the sole cause of poor performance and bad relationships in school. Play is universal and it belongs to health, it facilitates growth and therefore health, and it leads into group relationships. In addition, playing can be a form of communication in psychotherapy play therapy’s psychoanalysis has been developed as a highly specialized form of playing in the communication with oneself and others (Best, 2014).

Play therapy is appropriate and very helpful when dealing with children who have been traumatized by violent experiences in their different environments especially at home. Play psychotherapy becomes an important tool for the children to accept themselves and others. Educational psychotherapy confronts children’s issues indirectly in order to ensure that these issues are less threatening and more containable.


Best, R. (2014). Educational psychotherapy: an approach to working with children whose learning is impeded by emotional problems. Support for Learning, 29(3), 201-216.

Gvion, Y., & Bar, N. (2014). Sliding doors: Some reflections on the parent–child–therapist triangle in parent work–child psychotherapy. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 40(1), 58-72.

Slater, P. (2014). How much is too much? Understanding the role and function of violence and its manifestation in the consulting room: Intensive psychotherapy with a latency-aged boy. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 40(2), 150-172.

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