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Effectiveness of Child Centered Play Therapy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 1286 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Review of Literature

My proposed project will focus on child centered play therapy to service young school aged students. The intended setting is a public suburban elementary school with a diverse student population from Pre-Kindergarten to Second grade. The following articles discuss the effectiveness of child centered play therapy within an elementary school setting.

The study “Turning the Focus to Behavioral, Emotional and Social Well-Being: The Impact of Child-Centered Play Therapy” by Perryman and Bowers examined the impact of Child Centered Play Therapy on the behavior of students in a Second-grade class. As a result, the researchers concluded CCPT is beneficial and helpful in reducing the development of adverse behaviors which could impact academic success. Within a classroom environment, behavioral and emotional types of issues become apparent when a student displays disruptive behavior, social detachment, violence and aggressiveness which impedes academic achievement. As early elementary school aged children are considered malleable, the use of play therapy has produced results to help children in Prekindergarten through Third grade acquire the necessary tools to improve social skills, increase self- confidence, and achieve academic success. This study consisted of 36 student participants from an ethnically diverse elementary school who were identified as at risk but not outwardly displaying maladaptive behavior. The student participants received 10 weeks of CCPT and were split into two random groups. Upon the conclusion of the 10-week program, every student who had received CCPT demonstrated significant improvements.

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The study entitled “Child -Centered Play Therapy In The Schools: Review And Meta-Analysis” by Ray, Armstrong, Balkin & Jayne compared data from previous studies and evaluated the effectiveness of CCPT within elementary schools. Based on Person Centered Therapy method,CCPT utilizes a playroom to establish a safe environment and strategically selected toys to help a child communicate and increase self-awareness. The clinician adheres to important guiding principles in monitoring behavior, reflecting feelings and content, helping in decision making and creativity, nurturing the therapeutic relationship and provide encouragement. This study aimed to present a comprehensive review regarding the effectiveness of CCPT in elementary schools to help counsel school therapists. Utilizing a coding procedure, with play therapy as the independent variable for the control group and a comparison group. The data indicates CCPT is an effective intervention in elementary schools for assisting in better academic outcomes.

The study “Long Term Child-Centered Play Therapy Effects on Academic Achievement with Normal Functioning Children” by Blanco, Holliman, Muro, Toland & Farnam disclosed considerable improvement amongst the children that participated in all 26 CCPT sessions and concluded CCPT an effective long-term method supporting academic achievement. The study included 23 normal functioning First graders from three different elementary schools considered from disadvantaged backgrounds. CCPT has consistently been considered an effective therapy technique because young children tend to have difficulty communicating thoughts and feelings through verbalization. Action-oriented approach is more developmentally appropriate to help, support and guide a child towards academic success. The trusting and accepting therapeutic relationship developed between the child and clinician enables the foundation to improve self -confidence and awareness of abilities. The study concluded students who participated in the 16 sessions of CCPT performed statistically better and demonstrated continuous improvement. However, the results were not uniform thereby indicating play therapy affects academic skills differently.

The study “Child-Centered Group Play Therapy: Impact on Social-Emotional Assets of Kindergarten Children” by Cheng and Ray (2016) explored the effects of Child Centered Group Therapy in three different southwest  Title 1 public elementary schools with a majority of  the student population underprivileged. The 43 kindergarten student participants were referred by teachers because of displayed diminished social skills and emotional development. 21 student participants were randomly assigned to CCGPT groups and 23 participants placed in the waitlist control group. Trying to conclude if there is a difference in results between two-member and three-member CCGPT groups, the study consisted of 15 sessions over the course of 8 weeks. Conducting two 30-minute sessions per week, the doctoral level group leaders followed the CCPT treatment manual guidelines and video recorded each session to monitor results. Utilizing pre and post-tests for data, the researchers concluded CCGPT to be beneficial for this particular age for promoting empathy and social skills. However, the findings were inconsistent between parental and teacher reporting. Parents indicated considerable improvement in their child while teachers did not find students demonstrated important improvements by students in CCGPT or students in the waitlist group. 

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As most of the studies were limited to small sample size, student participants from disadvantaged backgrounds and geographic region, future research should include larger sample sizes, more diverse student participants from different geographic locations, settings and school type to help increase confidence in the outcomes and generalization issues. Child Centered Play Therapy for young children has the potential to foster normal social, emotional and cognitive development. Therefore, my intent is to design and implement an effective child centered play therapy program to help young children become happier, healthier and excited about learning. I am interested in working with Kindergarten or First grade age students and student participation based upon teacher or parental referral. In addition, future studies should consider extending the length of CCPT programs to improve the likelihood of facilitating positive long-term changes. It may be advantageous to implement a CCPT program for the entire school year twice a week with 20-minute sessions to promote better overall developmental outcomes which thereby will increase academic success. Working on a one-on-one basis with each referred student will help specify and individualize the CCPT to encourage the best results possible for that given child.


  • Blanco, P. J., Holliman, R. P., Muro, J. H., Toland, S., & Farnam, J. L. (2017). Long Term Child-Centered Play Therapy Effects on Academic Achievement with Normal Functioning Children. Journal of Child and Family Studies,26(7), 1915-1922.
  • Cheng, Y., & Ray, D. C. (2016). Child-Centered Group Play Therapy: Impact on Social-Emotional Assets of Kindergarten Children. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work,41(3), 209-237.
  • Perryman, K.L. & Bowers, L. (2018). Turning the focus to behavioral, emotional and social Well-being: The impact of child-centered play therapy. International Journal of Play Therapy, 27(4), 227-241.
  • Ray, D. C., Armstrong, S. A., Balkin, R. S., & Jayne, K. M. (2015). Child-Centered Play Therapy In The Schools: Review And Meta-Analysis. Psychology in the Schools,52(2), 107-123.


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