Play therapy insights into everyday social pedagogical practice in residential child care

Mie Engen, Line Søberg Bjerre, Mogens Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Psychotherapy and social pedagogical care, help and support in relation to children placed in out-of-home care are typically perceived as two separate forms of practice. In its typical form, psychotherapy is pictured as a meeting between therapist and client in a ‘therapeutic space’ separated out from daily life and activities, while social pedagogical care, help, and support is carried out in close proximity to everyday life in what is regarded as the person’s home. This article analyses an alternative relationship and way of collaborating between psychotherapy – more specifically play therapy – and everyday social pedagogical practice in residential care for children with severe emotional and behavioural problems. This is done by drawing on an empirical case study of the relationship between everyday practice and expertise of social pedagogical practice and play therapy in a children’s home in Denmark. Meeting the needs of children who have been severely neglected and/or abused is challenging in different ways, and it requires highly developed relational, emotional, and reflective skills. The authors argue that play therapy has a particular potential in foregrounding and developing core social pedagogical knowledge and skills. When designed and carried out as an integrated part of everyday social pedagogical practice, play therapy can support practitioners in integrating a reflective and conscious approach to understanding and meeting the children’s emotional and relational needs with the ability to create and enter into ‘playful encounters’ with the children that challenges one-sided and taken-for-granted power relationships, practices and norms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Pedagogy
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-14
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Special issue:Everyday Expertise in Social Pedagogy


  • children in care
  • Social pedagogy
  • Play Therapy
  • care


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