More Than Just Playing Doctor

Yesterday I was honored to present the topic of medical play with a coworker of mine to a group of play therapists. When I was first asked to present, I was so excited. I love presenting, especially on topics that I’m passionate about, like play. And while I have presented many times in school to fellow classmates, and even a few times to fellow coworkers at the hospital, this was my first time presenting to an association as part of their professional development.

What was even more interesting was we were exploring the similarities and differences between play therapy and play as therapy, or what I call “therapeutic play”. While there is often overlap, it is important to note that therapeutic play is not meant to diagnosis or treat a psychological disorder. It is, however, a great way to observe the child express himself or herself and use the play to perhaps clarify misconceptions, teach coping techniques, or as a reference to make referrals to other members of the healthcare team.

As you can see, the power of therapeutic play is not to be underestimated. And when you specifically use medical play with children in healthcare you are giving them opportunity to grow and understand their experiences in ways that are familiar and safe. It is important to recognize that when you see a child with a teddy bear and a stethoscope, he is not just playing doctor. He is exploring and processing his world, as well as discovering new ways to influence it. Just as it was the goal of the presentation, I hope that this blog has and will continue to encourage and inspire your use of medical play in whatever area you work to assist children in their healthcare experiences.

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