Continuing the trend of research on play therapy, once again Play Therapy Daily posed an interesting question about Play Therapy and how the child's work affects the parent's mental health. As referenced in the article there is a lot we can hypothesize, and research supports these theories in terms of examining positive improvements in child treatment aligning with better mental health outcomes. Additionally, child resiliency increases alluding to the cyclical nature of this phenomenon, but how much do we address the negatives?
Kristi Pikiewicz challenges readers in this most recent play therapy blog entry to ask the question, have their been instances when a "child's therapy is stressful for the parent?"
There are several different approaches one could take for this question, answering yes, no, or of course my favorite, it depends. If you continue to see development and growth on a continuum as it actually exists, both progress and step-backs (a natural part of the process) may likely be mirrored in the parent. This tension might be easily observed in the beginning of play therapy when a clinician must inform a parent that things that go on in the session will not be relayed verbatim and only general concerns will be addressed as the come up, with appropriate updates. Therefore, the clinician is placed in the position of developing a particular bond and alliance with the child and that in itself may impact a parent's mental health (whether positively or negatively).
However, a parent is a key part of this process and will and should be included, whether it be in joint play sessions or other methods of inclusion which may depend on the style of the therapist. Nevertheless, one should be aware that the ebbs and flow of the treatment with a child may be mirrored in the parent or a mutual influencing will occur (as the parent is the one who is with the child more often than the clinician is and there is much that goes on that may never enter the playroom or if it does there may not be words for it!) and both negative and positive effects on the mental health of the parent may be seen. Therefore, it is important to monitor all these things and help make these connections in the work.