Thousands of children are adopted both domestically and internationally every year. Many of these children come from institutional or foster care and may have repeatedly experienced trauma, abuse and neglect, which negatively affect their transition and attachment with their adoptive families (Van Der Kolk, 2005). If left untreated, these effects can last into adulthood, impairing a person’s ability to form secure relationships throughout their lives (White, 2014).
Using the lens of attachment, the purpose of this research is to explore the use of virtual play—especially play therapy—to help adopted children in Pennsylvania work through these past traumas so they can form healthy attachments with their adoptive families. Treating complex trauma in these children requires treatment that addresses the whole child: 1) safety, 2) relationships and 3) self-regulation and management (Purvis, 2013).
Many interventions are behavioral-based and revolve around the caregiver and family, such as attachment parenting and Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) training (Chobhthaigh, 2019). There have also been a variety of research studies on adoption and/or foster care, as well as the use of play therapy to help children with trauma. However, few studies focus on adopted children and their use of play, and no studies have been published that revolve around the use of virtual play to treat adopted children with trauma.
Design Solution: Mythos
In the form of a video game, adopted children and children with trauma role-play as a stuffed bear who’s lost their home and finds themselves on a journey of self-discovery. The game will be partnered with therapy and a physical stuffed bear. At the end of each session, the therapist will ask the child questions about their experience.
Target audience: Adopted children, ages 5-12
Ultimate learning/treatment goal: Termination of self-defeating acting out behaviors and acceptance of self as loved and loveable within an adopted family
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Full Thesis Document
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