Child-centered play therapy as a means of healing children exposed to domestic violence.

Increasingly, domestic violence is being recognized as a major concern for children today. Hamby, Finkelhor, Turner, and Ormrod (2011) of the U.S. Department of Justice discovered that approximately 8.2 million children were exposed to some form of family violence in the past year and 18.8 million over their lifetime as reported by a national survey. Witnessing physical as well as psychological—emotional violence within the family can cause serious detrimental effects to children. Younger children respond to domestic violence by having higher levels of psychological disturbance and display lower self-esteem than do older children. Likewise, other issues related to mental and physical health may manifest. Additionally, child witnesses of familial violence are taught to maintain the secret of violence; therefore, alternative forms to verbal expression are important in supporting this population. It is imperative that these child witnesses receive interventions that are developmentally appropriate and meet their unique needs. Play therapy has been proven to be a statistically effective means of treating externalizing and internalizing problems in children. Therefore it is proposed that child-centered play therapy interventions be applied when working with children exposed to domestic violence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)