The Impact of Group Play Therapy on Reducing Symptoms of Grief in Bereaved Children.
AuthorJohnson, Melinda N.
Counseling and Educational Psychology
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The purpose of this mixed methods case study was to examine the course of a ten-session play therapy intervention and its impact on the individual symptoms of grief in children. It studied the process that occurred throughout the ten play therapy sessions including themes that manifested during this process. Participants ranged in age from two to ten years old. All had experienced the death of a parent and were recruited through a peer support bereavement program in the community. A multiple case study design was used and several measurements were taken to get a better understanding of the play therapy process and its impact on the symptoms of grief in children. Participants received a pretest which consisted of the parent version of the Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL) (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000, 2001) along with the Parenting Stress Index (PSI) (Abidin, 1983). The same assessments were administered at the five-week mark and as a posttest. Five out of the eight participants completed the ten-session intervention. In addition, before and after each session, participants were asked to indicate their current level of pain on the Wong-Baker Faces Pain Scale (Wong & Baker, 1988). Last, play themes and emotions were identified, session transcripts coded, and the data was analyzed using the MAXQDA qualitative software. The results indicated that the process of play therapy with grieving children is unique and a variety of emotions and play themes were exhibited. Emotions included, fear, anger, confidence, curiosity, happiness, hesitation, and sadness. Themes that were played out included aggression/revenge, broken, burying/drowning, cleaning, creative/expressive, death/loss/grieving, exploratory, helpless/inadequate, mastery, messing/creating chaos, nurturing, power/control, relationship, rescue/protect, safety/security, and sorting/organizing.