Trauma and Hospitalizations

bear with trauma
“hurt teddy bear”

The Center uses play therapy to aid children’s work through traumatizing events. Recently we experienced a child close to our family having been hospitalized for an extended time. This made me wonder if hospitals ever use play therapy to help children during hospital stays. I came across a journal article titled “Play Therapy as an Intervention in hospitalized Children: A Systematic Review” and I thought I would give you a summary of what the authors found. (link to article).

Children may perceive it as traumatic

Hospitalization disrupts lives and can produce anxiety, fear, or pain. Playing is an important part of children’s lives. Thus, it is necessary to ensure holistic care during the process, including play therapy. The aim of the study was to analyze the effect of therapeutic play on hospitalized children. Quoting the authors: “When hospitalization is necessary, the child may perceive this situation as traumatic and it can alter their emotional development, as they are separated from their daily and family environment to face an unknown process with painful interventions and restrictions. During the hospitalization, the child may experience negative behaviors and emotions, such as stress, fear, anxiety, pain, insecurity, and uncertainty.”

Play Therapy is essential

The authors concluded that play therapy was essential not only because children like to play, but also because it aids interventions by nurses and doctors. Play is an essential activity in a child’s life, so, when hospitalized, it can help children face unknown situations, express their emotions and concerns, feel more comfortable and safer, and become familiar with medical techniques. It also helps communication between the child and health staff.

Future Research is needed

With all this in mind what are the conclusions and recommendations that this article discovered? “Play therapy has shown benefits in hospitalized children, such as reducing anxiety during the hospitalization process; reducing pain; improving the relationship with health professionals; improving the behavior and attitude of children to the disease and the procedures; and relieving feelings of fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Pediatric units should train their staff in the use of play therapy in order to obtain its positive effects. Additionally, future research should analyze which play therapy/games are more effective, comparing different sessions to each other instead of comparing only the play therapy with the usual care.”

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