Childhood Trauma and Play Therapy: A Responsive Approach in Elementary School Counselling

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Camire, Alison
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Childhood trauma is a public health concern with a significant presence in Canada's population. The literature shows several domains of impairment that result from childhood trauma, including attachment, biology, affect regulation, dissociation, behavioural control, cognition, and self-concept. From the school perspective, untreated mental health problems in childhood interfere with the ability to succeed in school. In particular, self-regulation, learning and memory, and social relationships are three key difficulties traumatized children experience in the school setting. School counsellors have a particular responsibility to respond in trauma-informed and developmentally-appropriate ways to students' social, emotional, and safety needs. In North America, play therapy has continued to emerge as the preferred and primary evidence-based therapeutic approach for children to target a range of behavioural, developmental, academic, social, and conduct problems and disorders; however, it has not been sufficiently researched in the context of school-based play therapy practice by school counsellors. In fact, many school counsellors are not using play therapy in their practice and most are not trained in using it at all. This capstone seeks to explore how elementary school counsellors can use play therapy approaches to support students who have experienced childhood trauma. It presents an introductory professional development session for elementary school counsellors in childhood trauma and play therapy and suggests future directions for research in the fields of play therapy and childhood trauma.
child centered play therapy (CCPT) , childhood trauma , complex trauma , play therapy , school counseling , trauma-informed practice