Playing for Their Lives:Helping Troubled Children Through Play Therapy

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Children are vulnerable, and too often they suffer–sometimes at the hands of those who profess to love them most, their parents. In poignant tales of therapy drawn from her practice, a wise and empathic psychologist, Dorothy Singer, addresses common problems of children today.

The author tells the story of the five-year-old victim of physical abuse who upon first entering therapy can communicate only with his fists. Through an insightful analysis of the boy’s artworks and games, Singer succeeds in breaking through his explosive anger to reach the pain and hurt he feels inside. She details the plight of the child who, caught in the middle of her parents’ divorce, sinks further and further into depression as the parents struggle to gain custody. As the child uses her dolls to poignantly play out the family conflicts, we are reminded yet again of the sometimes tragic effects of divorce, but Singer also demonstrates through this story how children can be made to understand and ultimately to accept their parents’ separation.

In another inspiring story, the author explains how, with the help of parents and play therapy, one can work with a hyperactive child to achieve remarkable changes in behavior with out the use of drugs, which today are prescribed all too commonly to treat this problem. And finally, we are given new insights into the effects of sexual abuse when Singer details the case of one of its victims, showing how through her therapeutic techniques, a child can be released from his terrifying memories of violation.

In these and other tales, Singer not only gives us greater understanding of the effects of common social problems on children, but she also shows how through toys, art, dramatic play, and games children can be healed. She explains how the therapist can work with the parents to change their behavior so that they too can become part of that healing process. In addition, through descriptions of her therapeutic techniques, we gain greater insight into the significance of children’s play.

These poignant and ultimately helpful stories will speak to parents, educators, and therapists alike.(294 pages)

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