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The Healing Power of Play - Page 11

Author's Reply

Lawrence Diller is correct that I should have specifically noted Bobby's age by months (29 in this case), because, as he aptly says, a child's growth is so rapid during this period that simply indicating that he was 2 doesn't say enough.

To go to the heart of his question as to whether working with the parents alone in the beginning would have been equally effective, I don't know the answer. But I think his suggestion is quite plausible. I actually prefer the parent intervention suggested by Diller, and would usually work primarily with the parents—meeting the child in at least one session for direct observation, and then coaching and guiding the mother and father.

Right or wrong, the reason I chose to work so actively with the child in the presence and with the participation of the family was that the parents appeared to be as anxious and traumatized by the experience as their toddler. Garry Landreth, a well-known play therapist, has frequently stated that children don't play when they're anxious beyond a certain point, and for play to serve its role of natural desensitization, those playing with the child can't be overly anxious either. Therefore, I felt desensitization was necessary for the parents as well as Bobby.

My clinical judgment led me to model the intervention aimed at desensitization and to "bracket" the experience as a rare occurrence. I also wanted to create perspective for both the child and family within the session, and then let the parents provide repetitions of the play at home.

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