Aim: To evaluate the efficacy of therapeutic play in alleviating pain or anxiety in the pediatric cancer patient.

Background: Therapeutic play is an intervention often incorporated within the care of pediatric cancer patients and children with other disease processes to promote well-being. Even though play therapy is supported by research, nurses have the option to implement nursing care interventions in a play-like manner. Therapeutic play is an individualized technique that provides an intentional opportunity for children to express their emotional responses in a controlled environment.

Method: The databases used in this search included CINAHL, MEDLINE, APA PsycINFO, ERIC, and Education sources. A total of 59 articles were kept for review. One additional article held for review was obtained through a secondary search of the same databases listed. Articles that did not specifically address cancer were not included.

Key Issues: Including therapeutic play interventions in the treatment of pediatric oncology patients is not a mandatory practice. If nurses perceive play therapy as an effective treatment option, an increased value may be placed on the approach. The usefulness of the intervention and the nurse's ability to execute it is essential in determining the overall efficacy.

Conclusions: Therapeutic play contributes to many favorable outcomes when used in practice during pediatric cancer treatment. While the reduction of pain and anxiety is supported, other beneficial effects include increased positive coping mechanisms, patient satisfaction, compliance, self-efficacy, social skills, and improved communication.

Keywords: Therapeutic play, play therapy, cancer, oncology, pain, anxiety, pediatric, nurse

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Breit, Donna


Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.)


College of Nursing



Degree Program




Access Status

Open Access

Release Date