Posttraumatic Play in Children

What Clinicians Need to Know

Eliana Gil

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
January 31, 2017
ISBN 9781462528837
Price: $75.00
210 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
February 7, 2017
ISBN 9781462528820
Price: $25.00
210 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
January 3, 2017
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $25.00
210 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $27.50
210 Pages
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From leading expert Eliana Gil, this book provides child clinicians with essential knowledge and tools for evaluating and working with posttraumatic play. Such play, which is often repetitive and disturbing, may help resolve traumatic experiences—but can also become toxic. The book guides the clinician to determine what is going on with a given child and intervene sensitively and effectively. Evocative case material is interwoven with up-to-date information on the developmental impact of trauma and ways to facilitate children's natural reparative capacities. A reproducible assessment checklist to help clinicians differentiate between useful and dangerous posttraumatic play can be downloaded and printed in a convenient 8½“ x 11” size.

“Gil is a celebrated author and clinician….Posttraumatic Play in Children is a straightforward and succinct book….Gil quickly engages readers with an exploration of the impact of complex trauma on children, with characteristics and clinical presentations of posttraumatic play to orient the reader. She then discusses relevant empirical and conceptual developments in the field of trauma-focused play therapy….A remarkable feature of this book is how seamlessly Gil integrates different theoretical orientations such as trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapies, posttraumatic play therapy, and school-based play therapy….This book is highly recommended for therapists of all orientations working with children who have experienced trauma and a valuable resource for graduate-level trainees and experienced therapists looking for innovative ways to conceptualize posttraumatic play….This book is an extremely useful and instructive addition to the field of trauma-based treatment that moves the field forward in astutely assessing and serving our children and adolescents.”


“This groundbreaking contribution by one of the preeminent leaders in the child trauma field is practical, highly accessible, and invaluable. Gil’s extensive knowledge and experience are evident throughout, especially in the detailed case illustrations that demonstrate specific, innovative techniques and systemic interventions for addressing posttraumatic play. The book comprehensively explores important issues such as pacing, clinical directiveness, and enhancement of the therapeutic relationship. It should be required reading for all therapists who work with traumatized young children.”

—Cheryl Lanktree, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California

“Therapists will treasure this remarkable book from a remarkable play therapist. Gil brilliantly conceptualizes posttraumatic play and its treatment. This work is sorely needed, given that many available therapies are ill suited for children with these types of developmental challenges. Gil points to the convergence of research (including neuroscience) informing us of the core elements of trauma treatment. The book discusses how to use play, art, and other expressive techniques in a relationally rich context to support a child's recovery in mind, body, and spirit.”

—Richard L. Gaskill, EdD, LCP, RPT-S, Sumner Mental Health Center, Wellington, Kansas

“This jewel of a book devotes much-needed attention to posttraumatic play, an underexplored but relatively common issue among traumatized children. It features clear, compelling descriptions and clinical tools. Gil's wise guidance, case examples, and practical strategies make this book an essential reference that will benefit experienced child-focused therapists as well as students.”

—Janine Shelby, PhD, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles

Table of Contents

I. Understanding Posttraumatic Play

1. Introduction to Posttraumatic Play in Children and Youth

2. Types, Forms, and Phases of Posttraumatic Play

3. Evaluating Posttraumatic Play and Intervening When It Is Toxic

4. Manifestations of Posttraumatic Play in Natural Settings and in the Therapy Office

5. The Larger Treatment Context: A Systemic Approach to Posttraumatic Play

II. Clinical Illustrations

6. The Car Crash

7. “When Mommy Comes Back”

8. “Daddy Hits Me When I’m Really Bad!”

9. When Posttraumatic Play Doesn’t Emerge Naturally

10. Burn Injuries

11. Chronic Sexual Abuse

12. The Terror of Bullying

13. “I Will Come Out by Myself”

14. Conjoint Narrative Sharing

Appendix. Checklist for Posttraumatic Play



About the Author

Eliana Gil, PhD, is founding partner in a private group practice, the Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, in Fairfax, Virginia. She is also Director of Starbright Training Institute for Child and Family Play Therapy. Dr. Gil has worked in the field of child abuse prevention and treatment since 1973. A licensed marriage, family, and child counselor; an approved marriage and family therapy supervisor; a registered art therapist; and a registered play therapy supervisor, she is a former President of the Association for Play Therapy, which honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the author of The Healing Power of Play, Helping Abused and Traumatized Children, and Play in Family Therapy, Second Edition, among many other publications. Originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dr. Gil is bilingual and bicultural.


Clinicians working with 3- to 12-year-olds, including child clinical psychologists; art, play, and other creative therapists; social workers; counselors; and child psychiatrists.

Course Use

May serve as a supplemental text in graduate-level courses.