Oxford Therapeutic Playwork

A Project from Oxfordshire Play Association in partnership with the late, internationally renowned playwork theorist, Gordon Sturrock

Oxford Therapeutic Playwork (OTP) was developed by Oxfordshire Play Association alongside Gordon Sturrock, and offers children and young people a safe space to play out difficult issues they may be experiencing, and more importantly allows them to play:

Through play the child can re-negotiate material that is causing difficulty in life elsewhere. Much of this material has been, previously, hidden, and is expressed through symbol, and covert meaning. The bullied child, bullies, in turn, her dolls. The abused child plays out narratives of abuse on the surrounding containment of the playspace’. (Gordon Sturrock 2001)

The Therapeutic Playwork sessions are facilitated by Play specialists who offer a non-judgemental and empathetic approach to Play that centres around clear and consistent boundaries to enable children and young people to act out and express their emotions in a safe way.  OTP also supports children and young people faced with challenges, to increase their resilience, develop a positive sense of self and improve their self-confidence.

As leading Play specialists and through extensive research we recognise how social change and demographics have affected children’s play.  We have adopted Sturrock’s model of Therapeutic Playwork to create a high quality play space which offers children and young people opportunities to heal through self-directed Play.  This is enhanced by complex interventions and specific tools and resources used by the OTP specialist.

This project has been successfully delivered to children in local primary schools with outstanding results. If you are a headteacher and interested in OPA running this therapeutic project in your school, get in touch with us. We are often able to fundraise so that it does not cost the school.

Project Aim

To support children & young people faced with challenges to increase their resilience, develop a positive sense of self and improve their self confidence

Key Objectives

1)   Children and young people are emotionally well – they can play through and express their emotions in a safe, non-judgemental way

2)   Children and young people are empowered through child-centred and child-led activities / sessions

3)   Children and young people enjoy positive relationships with their peers and adults

Each session provides a range of play opportunities for the children, carefully designed to provide the therapeutic component of the work. Examples include sand play, sensory play, crafts, water play, den building and dressing up/ role play. This is by no means an exhaustive list!

A high staff to child ratio (2 staff to 6 children) ensures that the children are supported at all times by the highly skilled OPA Play Specialists.

The sessions are a positive distraction for the children who can ‘play out’ their worries and fears in a calm, fun and structured environment.

Who is it for?

  • We work with children with additional needs who currently fall below the Oxfordshire County Council ‘Threshold of Need’ (those at Level 2 / early Level 3 on the County Council ‘windscreen’)
  • The project was not designed for those children with multiple / complex needs
  • Children suffering lack of confidence, social skills etc
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