Cultural Issues in Play Therapy

Cultural Issues in Play Therapy

Cultural Issues in Play Therapy

Cultural Issues in Play Therapy


"Filled with illustrative case material, this volume establishes a nuanced framework for thinking about the cultural context of play and play therapy. Also included is a special chapter on art therapy. Experienced practitioners examine how cultural factors influence children's behavior, the ideas and feelings they associate with different activities, and the responses of children and parents to particular interventions. Highlighting specific issues to consider when working with African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American children, chapters explore cultural norms related to pretend play, games, expressing feelings, personal space, and communication. In addition, the volume addresses the social stressors that many clients face, including racism, poverty, and acculturation challenges, and demonstrates ways to help children and families cope. Throughout, emphasis is given to the need to incorporate cultural knowledge into assessment and treatment planning, while steering clear of overgeneralization or stereotyping. An appendix furnishes useful details on where to obtain multicultural toys, games, and art materials. This book will enhance the knowledge and skills of all mental health professionals working with children and families. It offers important new insights for child and school psychologists, social workers, play and art therapists, counselors, family therapists, and child psychiatrists, along with students and trainees in these fields." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The weaving of a traditional Navajo rug begins as the weaver shears the sheep, collects plants for dye, dyes the wool, and spins the wool until it becomes yarn. She then finds just the right loom on which to weave her rug. Sitting before it, she sings a prayer song and weaves the pattern that emerges from her heart. All who know about Navajo rugs appreciate their value, strength, spirit, and substance.

It seems to me that Eliana Gil and Athena A. Drewes have metaphorically become weavers in their own right. Instead of yarn, they use cultural knowledge, history, values, and traditions to provide us with a rich compilation of approaches and insights that will enable play therapists to do respectful, sensitive work with culturally diverse children or adolescents and their families. Each chapter is like yarn of a particular color chosen for weaving and must be recognized for the individual brilliance it provides. Woven together, the different chapters create a beautiful pattern … a book of substance and heart.

I found myself reading each of the eight comprehensive chapters with enthusiasm and curiosity. (There is also an extremely helpful appendix on multicultural play therapy resources.) The first three chapters, written individually by Eliana (Chapter 1) and Athena (Chapters 2 and 3), expound on moving from sensitivity to competence; the role of play throughout a variety of cultures; and suggestions and research on multicultural play therapy.

In the opening chapter, Eliana begins by sharing the personal insights she has derived from growing up bicultural and highly acculturated in Western culture. She describes the impact of her Ecuadorian heritage and experience, and invites each of us readers to explore our own personal biases, values, and beliefs, and how they can affect and influence the therapeutic relationship. While reading this chapter, I found myself remembering my own issues with being Jewish and how I would often try to hide my Jewishness in a dominant culture in order to be accepted. When someone would find out that I was Jewish and comment, “You don't even look Jewish,” I would respond . . .

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