The Effectiveness of Play Therapy

Just read an interesting research study on play therapy titled “THE EFFECTIVENESS OF CHILD-CENTERED PLAY THERAPY ON THE CHALLENGING BEHAVIORS OF EARLY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS” by Corine Wixson which was published in 2016.  The study examined the effectiveness of child-centered play therapy (CCPT) on the challenging behaviors of three kindergarten students.

Why this type of study?

The main reason only a few students were used in this study was to maintain a high level of control using rigorous data collection methods. Research methods were designed to meet the What Works Clearinghouse pilot standards for single-case designs, which uses stringent criteria in evaluating quality of research. The integrity of the CCPT intervention was assessed to ensure accurate implementation when it was performed.

What were the basic results?

Results from direct observational data supports a relationship between CCPT and the improvement of classroom behaviors. In contrast to direct observational data, teacher ratings did not indicate improvements in behavior (I hope to read more of this dissertation and find out why the researchers thought this occurred). Ratings by parents yielded significant results for improving behaviors at home. This study made valuable contributions to the literature by utilizing a strong research design and demonstrating promising findings for CCPT. Practical implications include using as few as eight sessions of CCPT as a behavioral intervention at school and engaging in ongoing teacher consultation to supplement the play therapy.

What are the principles for the CCPT?

The main principles for the play therapy that was performed required that the therapist: (1) creates a warm, caring relationship with the child; (2) accepts the child exactly as he/she is; (3) creates a feeling of safety and permissiveness in the relationship, which allows the child to fully express his/her thoughts and feelings without feeling judged or stifled; (4) remains sensitive to the child’s feelings and reflects those feelings in a manner that fosters self-understanding for the child; (5) believes deeply in the child’s capacity to act responsibly and solve problems on his/her own. Though the Center uses many modalities, the principles of CCPT are an underlying guide for working with children. They produce a safe, therapeutic environment that encourages self-exploration and change for every child.

If you would like to read more about how the Center uses play therapy please click on the link.

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