Digital Technology in Play Therapy with Children

This PhD investigates how children and play therapists could use digital technology at different stages of play therapy. The study also aims to establish a para­digm of understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the use of multi-touch digital technology in play therapy. We followed non-directive play therapy principles and theories to design a creative, expressive package called Magic Land, which consists of four toys implemented as an integrated suite of applications on a multi-touch table:

  • Flying Feathers supports a child’s creative expression through painting, drawing, mixing colours and creating scenes.
  • Rosebush allows children to create stories from images and through this explore their understanding of and feelings about real life events. These images can encourage expressions of themes common to a child’s play that the therapist would be looking for: goodnessbadness, powerfulpowerless, dependenceindependence, helpfulunhelpful and so on.
  • Hero/Avatar supports the child’s creative expression and imaginative play. Here the child can create their own hero using parts of the body, clothing and facial expressions, wings and weapons, auras and companions.
  • Water allows the child to play with “water”, making ripples, adding pebbles, stones, ships, shells etc. It is combined with the sounds of rain and thunder and corresponding visual effects created on the surface of the water to explore the possibility and potential benefits of bringing music and play therapy together.

A number of play therapists in the North East of England, London and Canada were involved with the design and evaluation process. It was tested for interface usability in video recorded sessions by eight primary school children. We have also trialled it in the role-plays with therapists before the preliminary evaluation in play therapy sessions.

See the Play Therapy project website

Start Date: Sept 2008

Project supervisor: Sue Pattison (ECLS), Patrick Olivier.

Funding: SiDE, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences.