Letter: Help for children who never play

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Sir: Further to Hilary Weedon's letter about children's play (27 February), it is not only places for children to play that are necessary. It has become clear to me over 25 years of working with children that there are some who also never learn to play. Without this capacity there is no relief, no recreation and frequently no learning.

It is not easy to help such children, involving as it does the recognition of sometimes terrifying, punitive or sadistic inner worlds and the development of symbolisation. As Juliet Hopkins (letter, 23 February) implies, the learning of such things is best begun in the cradle.

However, child psychotherapists see it as one of their main tasks, and aim to provide a safe enough relationship and setting for their patients to explore and give meaning to their fantasies, rather than to act them out in vandalism, 'joy'-riding, self-harm, bullying and worse.

As must be clear, there is an increasimg need for child psychotherapists in the National Health Service, and yet these are the only NHS professionals who have to pay for their own training (between pounds 4,520 and pounds 11,035 per annum, over five to eight years). Many suitable candidates are thus precluded from training.

Yours faithfully,


London, SE22

28 February

The writer is training as a child psychotherapist.