The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a group therapeutic play intervention for children admitted to hospital with cancer aged between ten and 13 in Tanzania.
This evaluation was achieved by identifying changes, if any, in specific indicators of social and emotional behaviour and self-esteem by children in the hospital setting during the course of the study. The study was carried out over a period of three weeks during which five participants attended twice weekly group sessions of one hour. During each session a variety of therapeutic play methods including, arts and crafts, creative visualisation, doll making and storytelling, were used.
During the sessions the children were given the opportunity to explore their feelings and thoughts about being chronically ill and admitted to hospital for long periods of time ranging from two weeks to eight months. A child-centred approach based on the principles of non-directive play therapy by Virginia Axline, (1974) were used. This study is a mixed method approach supported by quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection.
Assessments of the children were carried out before and after the research intervention. Data collection methods included a parent, teacher and child-completed Goodman’s Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997) and a Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale (Rosenberg, 1965) pre- and post- the six session intervention. The qualitative element of the data was a detailed, narrative journal taken after each session by the researcher.
Results show a positive reduction in the levels of social and emotional difficulties and a rise in the self-esteem scores in the participants during the research period. This suggests that the use of a therapeutic play intervention may be an effective tool in facilitating the reduction of emotional challenges of hospitalised children in Tanzania. The implications and limitations of these study findings and future research are discussed.