Play therapy for abused children

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 1997, 12:00am

A visiting sociologist from the United States has told those attending a workshop at the Hong Kong Baptist University (BU) that play therapy is a vital ice-breaker when working with abused children.

Monit Cheung Kam-fong, Associate Professor with the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Houston, Texas, was speaking at the Play Therapy With Children conference.

As chairperson of Children and Families Concentration in the US, Dr Cheung specialises in child sexual abuse investigations and treatment.

'Everyone likes to play,' she said. 'It is a way to break through the silence [with children patients] then work out the psychological therapy afterwards.

'In many of my child abuse cases, we can't simply communicate with the victims by questions and answers. But we can start with some games.' Dr Cheung explained that toys, for example, allowed a child to project emotional issues on to an object whereas expressing such things directly might be difficult.

The child could eventually resolve and heal through play, she said.

But Dr Cheung warned that toys requiring skill - some ball games, a yo-yo, pick-up sticks - were not good because they created frustration.

'Each time we use the play therapy, there is no need to buy or use sophisticated toys,' she said. 'Even paper will do.' Dr Cheung was invited by Hong Kong educational institutions, government and non- government organisations to conduct training for professionals in the area of child abuse. The workshop was organised by the BU's Centre for Child Development.