We examined the effects of group play therapy on North Korean refugee children who resettled in South Korea. A qualitative case study methodology was adopted to understand and analyze the healing process that children go through during therapy,with a focus on play characteristics and changes in play patterns. We analyzed four North Korean refugee girls who were in the second or third grade (age range8–9years). Essential information about the girls was provided by caregivers, teachers, and school officials. The children processed the psychological traumas that they had sustained by playing out past traumatic events. Therapy outcomes made it clear that a group play therapy approach was effective in treating the children’s psychological troubles. As therapy progressed, the children exhibited reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved attention, and more frequent instances of age-appropriate play. Children with internalized behavior problems showed fewer problem behaviors and more appropriate emotional expressions over the course of the therapy. Children with externalized behavior problems showed fewer aggressive behaviors and increased empathy toward others. Their psychological trauma was rooted in disrupted interpersonal relationships, which is too commonly observed in North Korean refugee children,and it took longer to treat than traumas of simpler natures and associated symptoms.Our study adds to the existing body of research by presenting the specific processes and outcomes of a group play-therapy case study, which provides a data set that may prove useful in counseling at-risk children, including North Korean refugee children.
Provide readers with knowledge about the healing process that school-aged North Korean refugee children go through during therapy.
Focus on play characteristics and changes in play therapy with school-aged North Korean refugee children during therapy.
Examine the effects of group play therapy on North Korean refugee children who resettled in South Korea.