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LISTENING TO THE VOICES OF CHILDREN: An investigation into how children between the ages of 9 and 12 experience the therapeutic relationship between themselves and their play therapist.

By January 1, 2016No Comments

A non-directive play therapist is a person who listens to children’s thoughts, feelings and perceptions both through play and words. Her most important attribute is her quality of presence in the therapeutic relationship with the children (Moustakas, 1997). She aims to create a warm, friendly and safe relationship, characterized by empathy, acceptance and genuineness (Axline, 1989). The child’s perception of the relationship is of utmost importance for the therapeutic outcome (Rogers and Truax, 1976; Horvath, Del Re, Flucikger, & Symonds, 2011). This study investigates how children experience their relationship with their play therapist, myself, by listening to what they have to say about it. The method of qualitative narrative case study was used to investigate children’s perceptions of the relationship. Three children aged between ten and eleven years, participated in the study. The children were Greek girls, came from varied socio-economic backgrounds and had successfully completed their play therapy with their therapist, the researcher. Three research procedures were used: two creative media of each child’s choice and a mini-interview of four open-ended questions. The researcher described, analyzed, assigned meanings to them and made her observations on them. The findings of the study illustrate that the relationship these children had with their play therapist was of great importance to them. More specifically, the relationship seemed to them like a different entity created by themselves and the therapist. Other important findings were a) the importance of friendliness and equality in the relationship, b) child and therapist role differentiation, c) limitations and safety, d) the importance of therapist’s empathy, reflection and attunement, e) the significance of therapist’s quality of presence and f) the necessity of play in their everyday lives. Implications for play therapy practice and future research were addressed.