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Barish, K. (2020). The Role of Play in Contemporary Child Psychotherapy: A Developmental Perspective. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 19(2):148-158.

(2020). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 19(2):148-158

The Role of Play in Contemporary Child Psychotherapy: A Developmental Perspective

Kenneth Barish, Ph.D.

This article reviews evidence for the importance of play in children’s social and emotional development. Play is an essential pathway toward social maturity in young children. Children experience interactive play with admired adults as a form of affirming responsiveness, a basic nutrient of emotional health that all children want and need. Children learn through interactive play how to make accommodations and cooperate with others, how to cope with frustration and disappointment, and to develop self-restraint. Improved problem solving, creativity, and cognitive flexibility are also intrinsic to children’s play. All of these aspects of emotional maturity come together, synergistically, when we play with children. They are not learned, however, in front of a screen. The many benefits of play to children’s social maturity leads to a first clinical implication: As child therapists, we should help parents understand the importance of play and regularly encourage both mothers and fathers to play, frequently and enthusiastically, with their children.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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