Why is Play Therapy Vital to Cancer Care?
Counselling goes a long way in helping children win the psychological battle that can often crush the spirits of a cancer patient. At Shaukat Khanum Hospital (SKMCH) we have support groups, encouraging bonds between child cancer patients and motivating them to help each other out. All this is an important part of the holistic treatment we provide, with hospital staff like Bushra. Bushra is a play therapist at SKMCH. Her job is to address the psychological issues that come up as side effects of cancer treatment.
“My mother died of cancer, and that is why I decided to come and work here,” says Bushra, when asked about her career choice. “I come from a family of women where we have always been encouraged to do something new. One of my sisters is a pilot, and I am one of the first play therapists in Pakistan. SKMCH has given us a huge platform to expand this field and make a difference in it in the country.”
“The basic idea of play therapy is to keep children psychologically stable as they go through prolonged cancer treatment,” Bushra explains. “A number of psychological issues come up as side effects of cancer treatment, all of which we cannot eliminate. But over here we attempt to distract them and keep them engaged in various activities to make the psychological effect of treatment a little easier on them.”
At SKMCH, we know that half the battle with cancer is psychological. It is hard to imagine what goes through a child’s mind as he/she goes through intensive treatment. That’s why, developing a rapport with others is an important part of paediatric cancer treatment.
“Kids learn through looking at others,” Bushra says while elaborating the importance of group child therapy, which is vital to inspiring strength and coping strategies. “If a child sees another child holding their cannula well, or performing their activities, they get encouraged to do the same. And it is amazing to see the friendships and bonds that develop among kids here. I still remember we had a group of older children; majority of them were from KP and they would tell their parents that they didn’t need them around when they were at group therapy.”
“We have very strong support groups for children who have gone through amputations as well,” Explains Bushra. “In support groups they learn how to use and cope with prosthetic’s as they are introduced to past patients who have learnt to live well despite their amputations. We leave them alone, and that is when they discuss how to start moving (if for instance someone has had a leg amputation). It is a life changing process for them. The survivors who leave here all keep in touch with each other. Social media has played a big role in facilitating this. ”
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