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Playing with Fire: An investigation into the role of play and creative therapy with adolescents who have complex social, psychological and emotional issues, within the context of substance misuse services.

By January 1, 2015No Comments

Adolescents make decisions and react to the world in a turbo-charged process, based on emotion and quickly-changing brain connections, not logic and experience. Young people with complex needs can find this process even more difficult, as their neurobiological systems and emotional responses can be affected by their early experiences and developmental needs. This study examines a specific group of adolescents who have complex needs and who misuse substances, often as a result of these needs. The study was borne out of the frustrations of attempting to apply traditional substance misuse treatment modes to young people whose outcomes were changed minimally, if at all. Play therapy does not depend on language and communication, it does not depend on self-awareness and emotional literacy, and it does not depend on the young person’s readiness to change their substance use. Play therapy is potentially, an opportunity for young people with complex needs to re-visit missed childhood developmental stages and to build a healthy attachment, in the safe world of metaphor. Play therapy provides escapism and a method of solving problems which may naturally reduce the young person’s need for misusing substances.
Historical and contemporary research and theory has informed this study. Theory has been considered and interwoven to gain a clearer perspective of the needs of these young people. Research has been investigated and collated to examine what has already been found and what is being done to address these needs.
Five young people were invited to participate in the study. The research included a short case study and findings from their play therapy interventions. Findings were drawn from the completion of both the Goodman’s Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the National Treatment Agency Treatment Outcome Profile at start, review and ending stages. These were completed by the young people themselves and a parent or another significant adult. Semistructured interviews were held with the young people post-intervention to gain their views about the relevance and effectiveness of this type of intervention in the context of substance misuse
services for young people.