An exploration of the transference in play therapy for children with autism

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FitzGerald, Conor
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The author of this dissertation is a school teacher working with children with autism and became interested in exploring the manner in which a play therapist might approach working with children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The aim of this study is to examine transference, interpretation and symbolic play in order to gain a deeper insight into the workings of play therapy for children with ASD. Due to the growing number of children being diagnosed with ASD, it was necessary to carry out an up-to-date review of the literature in relation to these psychotherapeutic concepts as the current research appears to focus predominantly on neurotypical children. It was established that transference, symbolic play and interpretation have a vital role in play therapy for children with ASD, when managed appropriately. While the different approaches to treatment were considered, it was learned that the most optimal approach will be the one that meets the needs of the individual child and a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not exist when working with children with ASD. However, much of the research does highlight the importance of involving the parents in the process which has been proven to assist with the child’s therapeutic growth and development. For this reason, it is believed that an integrative approach that acknowledges the workings of transference, that utilises appropriate interpretation and that promotes the child to engage in symbolic play in a safe environment at a pace that suits the child may be the most effective approach when engaging in play therapy for children with ASD.