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Full Citation

O’Connor, K. (2005). Addressing Diversity Issues in Play Therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36(5), 566-575.

What diversity/subjectivity topics are they discussing?

cultural awareness and competence in play therapy

Your summary or comments on the article

This article is a good step in the right direction, worth reading and thinking about. It gives good advice, e.g., that the therapist get out of the office and become experientially more aware of the child and family culture. He discusses six stages in development of intercultural sensitivity, and applies them to the play therapy situation. The article reviews literature and discusses concepts, but is short on research (as is the field of play therapy in general). The greatest benefits from this article may be in how it stimulates us to think through our own assumptions and practices.


Globalization is upon us, resulting in almost daily exposure to and interaction with highly diverse populations. To practice ethical play therapy, play therapists must become culturally competent. Play therapists are called on both to address cultural issues in therapy and to facilitate children’s pride in, and preservation of, their culture. Despite this, the existing literature on cultural competence in psychotherapy has rarely been applied to play therapy practice. The author’s goal is to do just that so as to provide play therapists with a model relevant to their work. Play therapists must first fully understand the concept of culture and its potential impact on their own lives, the lives of their clients, and the play therapy process. Second, play therapists need to develop adequate levels of culturally related awareness, skills, and knowledge. Last, they can ensure the work they do is more culturally sensitive and competent by following basic guidelines.

Resource contributed by:

Tom Holman

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