Children who are in foster care come from various backgrounds, which are often traumatic for them. A form of therapy that helps foster care children heal and recover is play therapy. To help understand what type of emotional state foster care children are often in and the benefits of play therapy for foster care children, I have interviewed psychotherapist Alanna Sadoff.
Tell me a little about yourself.
“I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Portsmouth, Rhode Island . I earned a bachelors degree in psychology from Roger Williams University and a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from Hunter Graduate School. I have worked for many years in both school and community mental health settings providing therapy to individuals and families. In these settings, I provided play therapy services to children who have witnessed or experienced trauma, were struggling with life adjustment issues, coping with behavioral problems and family dysfunction. Most recently I also held the position of Assistant Director of Mount Pleasant Academy, a pediatric psychiatric day hospital in Providence, Rhode Island .”
What type of emotional state is a child that is in foster care?
“The emotional state of a child in foster care varies depending on the individual child and his or her specific life events that have led to placement as well as how secure the placements have been. You may see a highly anxious child who lives in a state of confusion and uncertainty. A child may exhibit significant signs of depression and be extremely withdrawn or introverted. Or a child may exhibit provocative or oppositional behaviors due to his or her inability to form positive attachments. Children in foster care often exhibit symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder those symptoms include irritability, hypervigilence, exaggerated startle response, and at times difficulty concentrating. Lastly, often a child in foster placement may have a difficult time appropriately regulating emotions.”
What are benefits of play therapy for foster care children?
“Play therapy can provide a safe non-threatening environment where a child can explore issues they might find difficult to express in other ways. Play therapy can help a child become more able to cope with how they are feeling, develop insight, emotional intelligence, and confidence. Children are given the opportunity to express their
feelings and understand the events that have taken place. Listed below are specific benefits of play therapy for children:
1. Reduces anxiety due to gaining a better understanding of the world around them
2. Defines healthy boundaries
3. Develops a sense of trust in self and others
4. Creates or enhances healthy bonding in relationships
5. Enhances creativity and playfulness
6. Promotes appropriate behavior
7. Facilitates a child’s expression of feelings
8. Promotes self-confidence and a sense of competence.”
What would a typical play therapy session be like for a foster care child?
“A child would be given the opportunity to select special toys in their play and use that medium to recreate an issue that may represent an emotional conflict that is important to the child. In one therapy session a child may only begin the process but the goal each week, would be to continue working through the conflict. Beginning with the expression, the child’s play evolves until the child gains a sense of understanding over the situation. Within the therapeutic process a trusting relationship is formed between the child and therapist and appropriate interactions are modeled and learned.”
Thank you Alanna for doing the interview on the benefits of play therapy for foster care children. For more information on Alanna Sadoff or her work you can check out her website at www.portsmouthfamilytherapy.com .
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