Play therapy 'improves the health of children with emotional and behavioural problems'

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More than 70 per cent of five-year-olds who have received play therapy show a positive change, according to findings from a new study.

Results from a ten-year research programme based on 10,744 pre- and post-therapy observations of children by Play Therapy UK - an organisation representing therapists, play workers and people who work with children - reveal that 73 per cent of five-year-olds who had play therapy showed an improvement in their emotional behaviour and mental health.

Findings from the study of 8,026 children aged five to twelve-years-old, considered as borderline or at risk according to the Goodmans strengths and weaknesses questionnaire, which measures children’s mental state, also indicated that on average the younger the child received play therapy the better the result.

However, the extent of the improvement depends upon the severity of the presenting issues, say the authors, with often the more severe children’s problems the greater the percentage of children showing a positive change.

The research also found that girls showed a higher improvement rate then boys,
79 per cent compared to 73 per cent.

According to Play Therapy UK (PTUK), the average cost of using play and creative arts therapies is estimated at £693 per child, based on an overall average of 15.4 sessions and a cost of £45 per session.

The organisation refers to research earlier this year that found for every £1 invested annually in targeted services designed to catch problems early and prevent them from reoccurring, society benefits by between £7.60 and £9.20. This adds up to a benefit of at least £5,267 in the long-term claim PTUK.

Jeff Thomas, Play Therapy UK’s research director, said, ‘This study confirms findings that the younger the child the easier it is to change memories of bad experiences stored in their unconscious.’

Cath Hunter, freelance play therapist, ( said, ‘Another long-term benefit of play therapy is that it reduces the stress placed on families and parents, resulting in fewer family breakdowns and reducing the number of children entering the care system, a big financial cost to society.

‘As a play therapist I work very closely with the child’s parents to help them understand their child’s difficulties and support them in making any necessary changes at home. The many parents I have worked with over the years have said this support has been invaluable to them and has helped them repair their relationship with their child.’

  • The full findings from the study ‘An Effective Way of Promoting Children’s Wellbeing and Alleviating Emotional, Behavioural and Mental Health Problems - the Latest Research' are published on Play Therapy UK’s website.

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