Understanding social workers' experiences of using play therapy techniques with children.
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The motivation to conduct this study arose from the researcher’s experience of working with children suffering emotional distress emanating from challenges such as abuse and family violence. It was found that, in the absence of a specialized organisation offering play therapy, generic social workers would often use basic play techniques to engage with these children. A qualitative approach was adopted to understand the experiences of social workers using play techniques with children. Social constructivism was used as a theoretical framework to understand the meaning that emerged when social workers interacted with children using such techniques. Purposive sampling was used to select six social workers to participate in the study. This sample was selected from a population of social workers that had worked with children for at least a year and had used play techniques at the Department of Social Development in the Bizana Service Office in the Eastern Cape. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews that were audio-recorded. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data from the transcribed interviews. The research findings indicate that the participants used various play techniques with children in distress to build therapeutic relationships, assess a child and relieve emotional distress despite having limited training in these techniques. Since none of the participants had been trained in play therapy, they felt inept in applying these techniques. There is a need to train social workers in play therapy in light of the multiple challenges that face children in South Africa, especially in rural areas. This should be prioritised in order to ensure that children’s needs are appropriately addressed.