Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers.
In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brown emphasizes the importance of play and creativity in our lives. She writes that “play is as essential to our health as rest” and that “the opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression”.
Social workers use play in their work to help children who are not yet ready for the traditional counseling experiences that are designed for adults. In play therapy, children can take control of the therapy experience by choosing to play and/or talk. Play therapy is a developmentally sensitive way to help children.
In social service delivery, being playful can help build stronger connections with people in our lives. As Brown points out, shame resilience is not all or nothing, present or absent, but a continuum between shame (fear, blame, and disconnection) and empathy (courage, compassion, and connection).
Social workers also use play as a way to communicate with children and young people. Communication with children and young people is at the heart of child and family social work. Social workers use a range of methods and techniques like touch, play, signing, body language, writing, drawing, activities, using symbols and other specialist tools to engage and communicate with children and young people .