This study examines the effect of play therapy on a child living in kinship care following the death of his parents in infancy. The main areas of research within the literature review are: attachment, early infant loss, developmental trauma, neuroscience, kinship care and play therapy. The researcher uses a grounded theory approach and a pragmatic perspective. It is a retrospective single case study. Both quantitative and qualitative data are used. The quantitative data consists of Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (Goodman, 2000) completed by school and home. The qualitative data consists of session notes and notes from review meetings with school and home.
The aims of the study were to:
a. Evaluate the effect of non-directive play therapy sessions on the behaviour of the child through an exploration of the themes arising from the play.
b. To discuss the changes in behaviour from an attachment perspective.
The results from the quantitative data show that after 28 months of play therapy there were improvements in the strengths and difficulties scores from the school in the area of hyperactivity, conduct, emotional and peer relationships. In the scores from home there were improvements in the areas of emotional and peer but an increase of 1 point in the hyperactivity section. The researcher used the qualitative data to identify reoccurring behaviours and themes that emerged within the play.
The child was able to build a trusting relationship with the therapist based on play therapy principles (Axline, 1969) and there were noticeable changes in his behaviour. He was able to develop resilience which was demonstrated in his ability to experience a positive ending when the sessions finally ended.
This study highlights the need for further research and training for professionals in the areas of attachment, early infant loss, developmental trauma, neuroscience and kinship care.