Original Research

Therapeutic play as a qualitative data generation method: A critical reflection

Yolanda Havenga
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 24 | a1136 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v24i0.1136 | © 2019 Yolanda Havenga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 February 2018 | Published: 11 July 2019

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Yolanda Havenga, Adelaide Tambo School of Nursing Science, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa

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Background: Child-centred research requires researchers to develop research designs that will enable children to express their views in an ethical, appropriate and child-friendly manner and generate rigorous findings. These requirements challenge researchers to develop new methods to generate data with children, and the ‘younger the child, the more intense the challenge’.

Aim: The aim of this article was to describe and reflect on the use of therapeutic play as a data generation method by nurse researchers with young children in a child-centred qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual study using a multiple case study strategy.

Setting: The study was conducted with young children attending an outpatient department at a public hospital in Gauteng.

Methods: Four young children, purposively sampled, participated in six sessions, each based on therapeutic play grounded in the work of Oaklander’s Gestalt play therapeutic approach, facilitated by a nurse researcher. Critical reflection was made about the play therapeutic approach as a data generation method, based on its ability to generate useful data, its implications for data analysis and its ability to be child-enabling and child-centred.

Results: The play therapeutic approach, as a data generation method, is capable of generating useful data and amplifying children’s voices in the process.

Conclusions: The nurse researcher needs to be highly skilled in this approach as it requires the ability to implement the specific play therapeutic approach in a safe and skilful manner.


Gestalt; HIV; lifeworld; Oaklander; qualitative research; therapeutic play; young children


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