Plain language summary
Children with chronic diseases are more likely to suffer emotional-behavioural problems than healthy children, which can also impact the family. Sandplay has successfully been used as a therapy in children with autism spectrum disorder and this randomised control trial aimed to determine the effect of sandplay therapy in 62 children with chronic diseases and their caregivers. The results showed that sandplay reduced anxiety, depression, withdrawal and social behavioural problems and improved behaviour in children with chronic diseases. Depression and anxiety were also improved in the caregivers of those children who participated in sandplay. It was concluded that sandplay therapy is an effective clinical tool to improve several psychological domains in children with chronic diseases.
PURPOSE Children with chronic diseases exhibit a higher incidence of emotional-behavioural problems. Though sandplay therapy is a universally recognized psychological treatment method, experimental evidence for this form of therapy is lacking. Our aims were to examine the effectiveness of sandplay therapy in reducing emotional and behavioural problems in school-age children with chronic diseases as well as anxiety and depression in their caregivers. DESIGN AND METHODS A total of 60 children and their caregivers were enrolled in the present study between January and October 2019. A randomized controlled trial was conducted at the Children's Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, China. Participants were divided into an intervention and a control group. Both groups received regular treatment, and the intervention group received additional sandplay therapy. Four behavioural rating scales were used to evaluate the differences between the two groups. The children's scores on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ), Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS) and Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS) before and after the intervention were compared using the Mann-Whitney test. The Wilcoxon signed rank test was also employed to compare the median results before and after treatment. RESULTS The total scores for CBCL, anxiety and depression, withdrawal, and social behavioural problems for children in the intervention group were all lower than the corresponding scores for those in the control group (p < .05). The EPQ scores for emotional stability and psychosis in the intervention group were both lower than those in the control group (p < .05). The SAS and SDS scores for the caregivers of children in the intervention group were also lower than the corresponding scores for those in the control group (p < .05). CONCLUSION Sandplay therapy can reduce anxiety, withdrawal, and social behavioural problems in school-age children with chronic diseases, as well as relieve anxiety and depression symptoms in their caregivers. Our study provided evidence for the clinical application of sandplay therapy and highlights the importance of offering and integrating psychological treatment in clinical nursing care.