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Recovering lost play time: Address psychosocial wellbeing of asylum seeker and refugee children

Principles and intervention modalities for providing psychosocial support to refugee children and families in the context of a reception centre.

Book cover Play Therapy and Expressive Arts in a Complex and Dynamic World: Opportunities and Challenges Inside and Outside the Playroom

The third chapter of the book Play Therapy and Expressive Arts in a Complex and Dynamic World: Opportunities and Challenges Inside and Outside the Playroom focuses on how to respond to the impact of forced displacement on children’s psychosocial wellbeing. The phenomenon of migration is presented as a process where children face an accumulating number of difficulties that do not end once they reach the country where their families seek asylum. In this chapter, I suggest the concept of “Recovering lost play time” is both the heart of the issue for children and the response that child professionals can apply in a variety of highly vulnerable situations.

The chapter is written from the perspective of a professional providing psychosocial support to children showing aggressiveness, lack of self-control and social competences, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, hyperactivity, and developmental issues, etc. The questions addressed in this chapter are: What do displaced children need most once they reach our service? How do we involve their families in the process? Why, when and how do we introduce and use the therapeutic power of play and, more specifically, Play Therapy interventions?

The answers to these questions unfold throughout the chapter by providing a theoretical orientation on children’s psychosocial needs, a concrete example of a project developed in a reception centre by the author and her team, and a case study with a child in Child-Centered Play Therapy.


The author


Isabella Cassina, MA, TPS, CAGS, PhD Candidate in Expressive Arts Therapy is a Social Worker specialised in International Cooperation (IHEID Geneva); registered Therapeutic Play Specialist (APTI). She is international speaker, University teacher in Switzerland and Italy, Head of Project Management and trainer at the International Academy for Play Therapy (INA) with over 10 years of worldwide experience in crisis contexts.



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