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What is Group Play Therapy 

Group Play Therapy can… “serve as a practice field for the outside world, and the expressive and projective nature of Group Play Therapy enables this practice to become real, thus easier to transfer into interpersonal and intrapersonal functioning” (Sweeney et al, 2014)

Group Play Therapy can be very supportive for students who may be having difficulties with social skills – either making /maintaining friendships, struggling to work out differences between peers or finding it hard to express / communicate clearly with their peers. Teachers may see this in unstructured time in the school yard or notice these dynamics in the classroom.

How it supports children

Group Play Therapy is adapted from Filial Therapy and aims to help children:

  • Express feelings verbally and non-verbally

  • Work through conflicts and be heard

  • Increase self-confidence and self-esteem

  • Increase their sense of trust in self and others

  • Help children develop an understanding of their feelings

  • Develop problem solving skills

  • Develop children’s ability to co-operate, share and engage socially with others

  • Help children to decrease any problematic behaviours 

  • Develop children’s ability to engage in learning without needing constant support

How it supports schools

Supports School Staff to:

  • Relate to students experiencing difficulties in their lives

  • Develop insight and understanding into the world of the child

  • Offer opportunities for children to experience true connection

  • Develop an increased understanding of child development

  • Develop an increased understanding of children's feelings and motivations

  • Learn about the importance of playfulness and emotion in overall wellbeing

  • Develop understanding of what motivates the behaviours of the child

  • Learn additional skills and ideas

Assist the school to…

  • Offer a unique intervention for the children with social, emotional, or behavioural difficulty

  • Support children through difficult life experiences

  • Communicate with children with language and communication difficulties.

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Programs for schools

Nicole and a trained co facilitator (preferably a teaching staff member from the school) facilitate a 20 week (2 term) program.

 

Between 12 - 16 students (3 - 4 groups of 4) will have group play therapy sessions for 30 mins a week.

 

The groups will be decided on by discussions with teachers, principal and observations of students.

The resources and toys are chosen very specifically to get the optimal benefit from the program, but underlining all of that is the therapeutic relationship the students are offered to build with the facilitators.

 

A room is required 1 day per week for the Group Play Therapy that can comfortably hold 4 students and 2 adults that is relatively private with a door and no thoroughfare. This can be discussed with Nicole during a school visit. 

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 Picture: 'Therapeutic Powers Of Play' by Renshaw & Parson, (2022).

What has been your experience of being part of Group Play Therapy?

"Invaluable knowledge and skills particularly around understanding children's development and recognising their strengths and challenges and how to best meet their needs. TORA has provided the necessary understanding of attuning to students to best support them and scaffold their emotional stability in order that they can attend to learning requirements within a school context. If students are happy, safe, connected and secure they will learn."

Have you noticed any progress for the current children in GPT?

"There have been notable shifts in children's affect - confidence, social being, verbalisation of feelings or story narrative. As well as clear identification and shifts in play themes across developmental stages."

 

How has GPT informed your wider work in school?

 

"I have been able to practice the skills of TORA within a smaller group setting and then practice each skill both in classroom space and outside on yard duty. It has been great practice to hone in on one skill a week and practice and refine that, then move on to another."

How do you think GPT has supported your TORA skill development?

"The GPT sessions have further increased the knowledge of TORA skills in understanding each of the skills, recognising when each of the skills may or may not be appropriate to use, using the skills in real moments and hearing the skills being used by the experienced practitioner in the space."

GPT Programs

Talk to Nicole Ricketts about a Group Play Therapy Program to support your school.

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