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‘We should be playing, not talking’: play, self-agency and moving towards depressive moments

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This paper describes the use of play in the psychotherapy of a latency child from a severely traumatised background. It considers the meaning of play in relation to the role of the psychotherapist and to psychotherapeutic technique and explores its functions in terms of the child's development. The paper documents the psychotherapist's learning experience about the difficulty of trying to make the ‘right’ interpretations and her consequent realisation of the intrinsic value of play in psychotherapy. In considering these themes, the author explores how, by placing interpretation secondary to play, the therapy enabled the development of the child's creativity and self-agency, facilitating a movement from primarily paranoid–schizoid defences towards the beginnings of a depressive position.
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Keywords: developmental object; play selves; projective identification; psychic integration; trauma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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