From the Author LeAnne Steen:
The purpose of this book is to consider that play therapy is an eco-systemic form of therapy, and integrating these topics is essential in modern day play therapy conceptualization. In saying that it is eco-systemic, I am not speaking of the actual relationship or interventions. I am talking about the reality of the complexity of working with children and their families. A play therapist is responsible for being competent to work with a variety of populations and to engage in consultative supervision, as is any counselor or therapist working with any individual clients. But, for play therapists, working with children, we are responsible for working with a variety of caregivers and professionals who are often connected to the child in meaningful ways.
Brofenbrenner (1979) first developed the concept of ecological systems theory as a means for understanding children developmentally, but within the context of their multi-systemic experience. The child is at the center (developmental age, gender identification, etc.); he or she is immediately surrounded by the microsystem (family/ caregivers, school church, friends); then the next layer surrounding the child is the mesosystem (the interconnections between microsystems like caregivers and teachers); then the exosystem (social services, neighbors, media, politics); and finally the macro system (culture and ideology).
The play therapist must attempt to join the child in their inner circle, by meeting the child both developmentally and with awareness of the relationships and systems impacting the child. Our role is to reach out to these caregivers and other professionals, to be the voice, to understand the services, to collaborate, to ensure there is not over duplication, and create supportive systems around the child. When working with caregivers, we need to engage them and respect their need for support and the diversity that they bring to the table too. As a child centered play therapist, I focus on my role as recognizing this multi-systemic reality and engaging within it, on behalf of the child, but my relationship with the child in the room follows child centered tenets. O’Conner (2015), however has outlined an entire play therapy theory based on the eco-systemic concept.
In this spirit, I have invited authors to write about emerging research in the field of play therapy, child counseling and consultation. By including the consultative, I feel this book takes a more holistic perspective of the reality of play therapist’s needs in the play therapy research and available literature. These are the practical implications, of being informed by the literature, as it pertains to the reality of play therapy. In addition, the book has a strong emphasis on the neurobiological implications in play therapy, and there are several chapters on specific theory and specific populations, including both empirical and conceptual studies that increase the evidence for best practice.
The target audience for this book includes play therapists, play therapy educators, students, and mental health providers of children and families.