Are you a parent who has concerns about your child’s emotional wellbeing?
Are you working with refugee children and have concerns about their resilience or emotional wellbeing?
Do you manage an NGO and would you like your team to learn more about how to support children therapeutically using play and the creative arts?
I am a fully qualified Play Therapist (MA) and have extensive expertise in working with children who have experienced:
- Trauma in life (either a one off incident or reoccurring events). This has included:
- physical and emotional abuse,
- domestic violence,
- exodus from a conflict zone,
- forced geographical re-location, continuing to live a life of hardship and being victimized by peers in their host countries.
- Anxiety and / or low self-esteem.
- Unexpectedly forced to leave their homes, country and family members.
- Been referred to as Third Culture Kids (TCK) whose parental life style necessitated moving between countries on a regular basis.
- Feelings of anger resulting in school teachers raising concerns.
- Difficulties forming and consolidating friendship (s).
- Grappling with the confusion of parental separation or divorce.
- Feelings of depression.
What is Play Therapy?
Play Therapy can be compared to a window into the emotional life of children. It provides a place for children to express and explore their thoughts, fears and emotions in a safe child friendly way. Instead of merely relying on words (which children can find very difficult), the therapy uses play and creative expression as a form of communication. It is a multicultural tool that enables children to strengthen their self-esteem and resilience, whilst also helping them to deal with toxic stress, trauma and fear. The essential fruits of this are: children who become better emotionally regulated and balanced, more engaged in their education and able to find their place in the wider family unit and their community.
Play Therapy harnesses that natural ability of play. It provides children with a safe space where they can:
- Learn how to self-regulate their feelings effectively.
- Develop their self-esteem.
- Experience a therapeutic relationship.
- Reduce their anxieties.
- Heal from past trauma.
- Learn how their emotions and behaviours are often linked together.
- Become resilient young individuals, rather than merely victims of their past.
As a trained Play Therapist, I use multiple techniques such as:
- creative visualisation,
- sand tray,
- dance and movement,
- drama therapy,
- masks and clay.
If you are concerned about the emotional wellbeing of a child in your care and think that they would benefit from Play Therapy, consider contacting me. I look forward to hearing from you and discussing your needs.
What I can offer:
- Individual Play Therapy sessions.
- Small group sessions in schools, refugee camps, community venues and Child Friendly Spaces focusing on strengthening self-esteem and resilience.
- Teacher training (INSET days).
- Consultancy and training for organisations on the importance of working therapeutically with children.
- Practical workshops on how to use play and creative arts skills with children.
- Summer Camps for refugee children in collaboration with your organisation.
- Please feel free to contact me if you have other ideas on how I may be able to support your child and / or the work you do.
My name is Sarah Elliott, I have lived in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and in Jordan. I am a fully qualified Play Therapist and have completed a Masters in Practice Based Play Therapy with Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. I am adept in child development, child mental health and protection, complex trauma, psychosocial support and in facilitating school-based interventions. I currently live in Amman and work at the International Community School (ICS) as their Primary School Counsellor. Languages: I am fluent in English, and spoken German and I am currently learning Arabic.
Education and Experience:
- 2017, MA in Practice Based Play Therapy with Distinction. Awarded by Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom.
- Article published in the International Journal of Play and Creative Arts Therapies Research, Volume 1, Number 2, December 2017, ISSN 2055-799X called ‘To what extent can a series of play therapy sessions contribute to strengthening resilience in Syrian refugee children?’ Read the article here
- Designed and project managed a play therapy program for Syrian refugee children, with a focus specifically on resilience.
- 2017, Paediatric First Aid.
- 2017, Safeguarding Children and Young people.
- Registered with BACP, I abide by their ethical standards and currently work towards their accreditation. I attend regular clinical supervision and I am committed to undertaking Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
- Successfully ran a play therapy business in the UK.
- Worked for Social Services to support children in Foster Care or who had been adopted.
- 2014, Post Graduate Diploma in Play Therapy.
- 2009, Post Graduate Certificate in Therapeutic Play.
- 2007, NVQ level 3 in Health and Social Care (children & young people).
Research Interests and Projects
I am passionate about helping children develop, thrive and reinforce their emotional wellbeing. One of my key areas of interest are children who have been displaced due to war and conflict.
War atrocities do not differentiate between children and adults. Often, whole communities are affected. Children are especially vulnerable because unlike adults, they have not yet fully developed physical, emotional and intellectual capacities to protect themselves. Refugee children often experience an accumulation of stressful or traumatic events which may include, the exposure to war, the loss of family members, their home, relocation to another country, physical illness (such as malnutrition), lack of education and social exclusion and discrimination.
In 2014, I spent two weeks in Jordan so I could meet families from Syria who had been displaced by the crisis. For the first week I stayed in a place called ‘Marka’ which is on the outskirts of Amman, and for my second week I stayed in the border city of Mafraq. All of the families I visited were registered refugees with the UNHCR, and were now living in local communities within the Kingdom of Jordan. Whilst conducting this study, I started to realize how Play Therapy could provide life changing opportunities for these children. These two photos were drawn by the children whilst I was interviewing the parents who then gave consent for these to be used. Read the article here.
Understanding how adverse experiences impact brain development in children is of the utmost importance. Shonkoff et al. (2012) differentiate between three types of stress in a child’s life: positive stress, tolerable stress and toxic stress. Positive stress refers to experiences which are common and of short duration, such as starting a new school, that can easily be overcome by most children with a supportive adult present. Tolerable stress refers to extraordinary experiences such as, death or divorce of a parent, but again they are usually tolerable with the support of an adult. Toxic stress refers to a severe adverse experience, sometimes over a prolonged period of time without the presence of a caring adult. He argues that toxic stress in young children can change the brain architecture and have an impact on their future educational, emotional and physical development. The experience of play together with a therapeutic relationship, has the ability to reduce stress, regulate emotions, shape or re-shape brain circuits and influence future development for learning and mental health (Fearn and Howard, 2012, MacMillan et al., 2015, Stewart et al., 2016).
In 2016, I conducted a research study in Jordan. It consisted of ten group play therapy sessions with Syrian refugee children. The results indicated a 15% decrease of emotional and behavioural difficulties using the Strength and difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), a 33% reduction of post-traumatic stress symptoms using the Children’s Impact of Events Scale (CRIES), a resilience increase of 15% using the child scored Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM) and a 17% increase in the parent scored CYRM. The results of this study support the use of play therapy with Syrian refugee children, provide a comprehensive understanding of how resilience was strengthened and how this was observed by the parents, the children, the translator and the play therapist. Read the article here
I am currently providing consultancy services on a project which is aimed at designing a series of stories for all children living in Jordan. These short stories will focus on enabling children to learn conflict resolution skills from an early age (5-10yrs), whilst also helping them overcome the violence they may experience at home, at school or in their communities. This project is funded by UNICEF.
FEARN, M. & HOWARD, J. 2012. Play as a Resource for Children Facing Adversity: An Exploration of Indicative Case Studies. Children & Society, 26, 456-468.
MACMILLAN, K. K., OHAN, J., CHERIAN, S. & MUTCH, R. C. 2015. Refugee children's play: Before and after migration to Australia. J Paediatr Child Health, 51, 771-7.
SHONKOFF, J. P., GARNER, A. S., SIEGEL, B. S., DOBBINS, M. I., EARLS, M. F., GARNER, A. S., MCGUINN, L., PASCOE, J. & WOOD, D. L. 2012. The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. Pediatrics, 129, e232-e246.
STEWART, A. L., FIELD, T. A. & ECHTERLING, L. G. 2016. Neuroscience and the magic of play therapy. International Journal of Play Therapy, 25, 4-13.