Twelve variables are
used to help to define each level in the continuum.
These variables are then used in a matrix which
provides contextual definitions.
Alternatively see the
simplified definitions: Play Play Work
Therapeutic Play Work Therapeutic Play
Filial Play Play Therapy Child Psychotherapy and Clinical Psychology (CPCP)
The 12 defining variables are:
Objectives of the application
- Types of Intervention
Description & Role of the Provider
- Age Range (Emotional)
- Play or Creative Art
The Degree to which
Psychological Theories are applied
- Safety Issues
- Quality Management
- Code of Ethics
- Degree and Type of
The objectives of the use of play
are a good
place to start defining each level. The role of play ranges, through a
number of levels of the continuum, from enjoyment and self
development (‘pure’ play) at one end to acting as an adjunct to talking therapies
at the other end. One
way of defining the objectives of therapy where mental health and emotional
state is involved is the level of the client’s functioning. Another way of
describing objectives is the severity of the condition(s) that play is
intended to alleviate. See examples below.
Degree of Condition
Hospitalisation for a minor operation
Temporary impairment of well being; minor loss of functioning
Relationship issues: friendships, sibling rivalries
Some loss of well being, on going impairment of functioning preventing
the child reaching their full potential
Stress and trauma
Child feels emotionally unwell, has considerable impairment of functioning,
problems need to be dealt with promptly to prevent further
Repeated physical and sexual abuse from several sources
Mental illness or disorder; child at risk and unable to function as a
If conditions at any level are not treated and resolved with appropriate
intervention then they may progress to a higher level.
This attribute indicates the type of intervention, if any, used to
achieve the objective. Some interventions are therapeutic, others are not.
This attribute also leads to consideration of the nature of activities that
In these definitions it is assumed that there is a provider of care of
some kind to provide, supervise or mediate the play activities. In the vast
majority of cases this will be an adult but in some cases it could be
another, normally older, child. This attribute helps to distinguish the
level of skill required for the different applications of play.
This attribute is useful to separate some applications from others. The
emotional age of the child, rather than the actual age, should be used.
One of the most important distinguishing points is the
amount of knowledge that is
needed of the informing psychological theories.
The more that interventions use psychological based techniques the greater
the necessity for clinical supervision
to make the client and therapy
A further distinguishing factor is the environment in which play is used.
Is it for example a clinical or non clinical environment?
The environment together with the type of intervention will determine the
safety considerations - physical, emotional, psychological.
Another consideration is the extent to which play is used in the
application. This may range from 100% where play is the sole activity to
perhaps less than 5% where play is used as an adjunct to another type of
therapy or activity.
In any application where play is ‘administered’ there is a need for some
form of quality management which may range from simple basic monitoring to
quite complex clinical governance procedures
Where any professional worker is involved with children observance of an
or code of ethics is
essential. This may be one of a professional organisation such as PTA
of an employing organisation.
All of the above factors, when considered for a particular application
give a good indication of the degree and type of training required.
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