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Working with Children to Heal Interpersonal Trauma

The Power of Play

Edited by Eliana Gil
Foreword by Lenore C. Terr

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
August 3, 2010
ISBN 9781606238929
Price: $87.00
336 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
September 19, 2013
ISBN 9781462513062
Price: $37.00
336 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
March 9, 2011
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $37.00
336 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $74.00 $40.70
336 Pages
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Featuring in-depth case presentations from master clinicians, this volume highlights the remarkable capacity of traumatized children to guide their own healing process. The book describes what posttraumatic play looks like and how it can foster resilience and coping. Demonstrated are applications of play, art, and other expressive therapies with children who have faced such overwhelming experiences as sexual abuse or chronic neglect. The contributors discuss ways to facilitate forms of expression that promote mastery and growth, as well as how to intervene when play becomes stuck in destructive patterns. They share effective strategies for engaging hard-to-reach children and building trusting therapeutic relationships.

“This is a powerful book on two levels. Its descriptions of the abuse and trauma suffered by children at the hands of those supposed to provide love and care are harrowing. At the same time, it is one of the best advocates for the use of play therapy I have read in a number of years....The clinical focus is on play as a restorative form of non-verbal communication and on play therapy as a distinctive therapeutic form. As such it should prove a useful addition to the library of those services working with traumatized and abused children, as well as to the library of those organizations involved in the training of new practitioners.”

Counselling Children and Young People

“The work is presented in a clinical but compassionate tone, providing accounts of incredibly moving therapy sessions, discussions of treatment, and references for further reading. It emphasizes the power of the therapeutic relationship and the change that is possible when a child is provided the time, space, and care necessary to find his or her own way forward.”

Young Minds Magazine

“Play therapy, the oldest and most popular form of child therapy, is widely considered by practitioners to be uniquely responsive to the needs of children who have experienced interpersonal trauma. This volume offers a wealth of information about the effective use of play-based interventions that honor children’s self-healing strategies. From a renowned expert in the field, this is a valuable resource for beginning and experienced therapists who work with child victims of interpersonal trauma, such as abuse and neglect.”

—Charles E. Schaefer, PhD, RPT-S, Department of Psychology (Emeritus), Fairleigh Dickinson University

“Gil and her contributing authors take us on an amazing journey that captures the creative ways traumatized children find to heal when we meet them in their world, not with language, but with play. The richly detailed cases are filled with unforgettable lessons about how to help children express their private, complex experiences. The book also provides substantial support for those needing to validate the healing power of creative interventions within a trauma-informed context. We will definitely recommend this book to the thousands of professionals the Institute trains yearly. It will be useful for both new and seasoned practitioners.”

—William Steele, PsyD, MSW, Director, National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children, Starr Commonwealth Institute for Training

“Gil and colleagues provide a warm and insightful description of play-based healing for traumatized children. Compelling case examples illustrate therapeutic principles such as the need to decode children's play behavior and the ways in which play facilitates natural healing processes following trauma. I highly recommend this book for clinicians working with children who have experienced interpersonal trauma—the hope and healing are heartening! As a classroom text, the book would offer students cutting-edge information and clear examples that model advanced clinical skills.”

—Jennifer Baggerly, PhD, Counselor Education Program, University of South Florida

Table of Contents

Foreword, Lenore C. Terr

I. The Extent of the Problem and Its Impact

1. Introduction, Eliana Gil

2. A Review of Current Research on the Incidence and Prevalence of Interpersonal Childhood Trauma, Jennifer A. Shaw

3. The Role of Healthy Relational Interactions in Buffering the Impact of Childhood Trauma, Christine R. Ludy-Dobson and Bruce D. Perry

4. Children’s Self-Initiated Gradual Exposure: The Wonders of Post-Traumatic Play and Behavioral Reenactments, Eliana Gil

II. Clinical Responses

5. Silent Grieving in a World without Words: A Child Witnesses His Brother’s Murder, Eliana Gil

6. The Owner of a Broken Heart: The Cumulative Trauma of Surgery and Sexual Abuse, Nicole Erin Jalazo

7. A Hero’s Journey: A Boy Who Lost His Parents and Found Himself, Vincent L. Pastore

8. A Tornado Disrupts the Wedding, to the Relief of the Unwilling Bride: A Girl’s Quest for Healing after Sexual Abuse, Myriam L. Goldin

9. Finding the Treasure Within: Spontaneous Storytelling and the Sandplay Journey of an Emotionally Despairing Girl, Rosalind L. Heiko

10. "Stitches Are Stronger Than Glue": A Child Directs the Healing of Her Shattered Heart, David A. Crenshaw

11. Manny's Story: A Soul Ascending, Eric J. Green

12. "I Am an Artist": A Sexually Traumatized Girl’s Self-Portraits in Paint and Clay, Barbara Sobol

13. The Gift of Time: Helping to Heal through Long-Term Treatment Involving Complex Trauma and Cultural Issues, Athena A. Drewes

14. "This Mommy Has No Milk!": A Neglected Child’s Adaptation to Loss and Hunger, Eliana Gil

15. Play and the Transformation of Feeling: Niki's Case, Eva-Maria Simms

About the Editor

Eliana Gil, PhD, is founding partner of the Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, a private group practice 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.


David A. Crenshaw, PhD, ABPP, Founder and Director, Rhinebeck Child and Family Center, LLC, Rhinebeck, New York

Athena A. Drewes, PsyD, Director, Clinical Training, Astor Services for Children and Families, Poughkeepsie, New York; Adjunct Professor, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Eliana Gil, PhD, Senior Partner, Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, Fairfax, Virginia; Adjunct Faculty, Virginia Tech University, Falls Church, Virginia

Myriam L. Goldin, LCSW, Bryant Adult Alternative High School and Alternative Learning Center, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Virginia; private practice, Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, Fairfax, Virginia

Eric J. Green, PhD, Faculty Associate, Department of Counseling and Human Services, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Rosalind L. Heiko, PhD, Director, Pediatric and Family Psychology, Cary, North Carolina

Nicole Erin Jalazo, LCSW, Therapist, Childhelp, Inc., Fairfax, Virginia; private practice, Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, Fairfax, Virginia

Christine R. Ludy-Dobson, PhD, Director of Programs and Research, ChildTrauma Academy, Houston, Texas

Vincent L. Pastore, PhD, private practice, Mooresville, North Carolina

Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, Senior Fellow, ChildTrauma Academy, Houston, Texas

Jennifer A. Shaw, PsyD, Partner, Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, Fairfax, Virginia

Eva-Maria Simms, PhD,Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Psychology,Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Barbara Sobol, LPC, ATR-BC, Director, Washington Art Therapy Studio; Adjunct Faculty, George Washington University Graduate Program in Art Therapy, Washington, DC


Mental health professionals working with children, including child psychologists, social workers, play and art therapists, counselors, family therapists, and psychiatrists.

Course Use

Serves as a supplemental text in clinically oriented graduate-level courses.