In February 2016 the first child-centred play therapy training course was held in Nepal. People who remember “Dibs in Search of Self” by Virginia Axline will understand the power of play therapy to transform the lives of children who have been traumatized. In Nepal, many children suffer long-term psychological problems due to fear, grief and loss, abuse, neglect and physical trauma. The earthquakes in 2015 and the recent blockades with India have precipitated many problems, including an increase in human trafficking. Nepali counsellors frequently see children with behavioral problems due to underlying traumatic experiences.
Play therapy allows the child to act out difficult or confusing life experiences in a safe way, and the therapist’s relationship with the child lets the child know, “I am a person worth caring for”.
Together with Community Development and Research Organization Nepal (CORD-Nepal) we created a play therapy training opportunity supported by Friends of Nepal, the Rotary Club of Scarborough and Play Therapy Australia.
In February 2016, 22 participants met for three days in Kathmandu to learn the foundations of child-centred play therapy. We were overwhelmed by the level of commitment to learn these new skills. CORD Nepal did a wonderful job to identify key people working at grassroots level with children – in residential shelters for trafficking survivors, pre-schools, schools and other community organisations. Some had a counselling background; others were from education and social work. All participants conveyed just how valuable the new skills would be for their work with children and their family life.
The programme consisted of discussion, videos and experiential exercises in the form of role plays. Many of the toys used by participants in the role plays were purchased in Kathmandu.
We started to explore how play therapy can be adapted for Nepal including consideration of remote rural areas, child-safe spaces in temporary shelters, ‘portable’ play therapy, local toys, natural materials and household items used in play, and cultural factors.
CORD plans to host an email network and it is hoped that members of the group will develop a means of peer support as they incorporate elements of child-centred play therapy into their work.
We will visit again in June or July to offer refresher training. In the meantime we plan to have the key course notes translated into Nepali and to be part of the ongoing email peer support network. Thank you to Friends of Nepal for the financial support to make this training a reality. We sincerely believe it will change the lives of many children in Nepal.
- A report by Hilary Wallace PhD (facilitator) and Diane McGeachy BA Psych M Couns (trainer)