Why Child-Centered Play Therapy Works for Every Child: The Evidence to Navigate Skepticism

Jan 12, 2024

In this episode, I address a question from Barbara in California about how to explain to others that child-centered play therapy can work for any child. This is a crucial topic because it helps justify our work and the effectiveness of the child-centered model. Barbara shares her experience at a California agency where her supervisor initially supported her interest in child-centered play therapy but now suggests incorporating other methods, claiming child-centered doesn’t work for every client. However, Barbara hasn’t been given specific examples of when child-centered wouldn’t be suitable. I emphasize the importance of understanding and articulating the efficacy of child-centered play therapy to others, especially when faced with skepticism. I recommend using evidence-based resources such as the book “Child-Centered Play Therapy Research” edited by Jennifer Baggerly, Dee Ray, and Sue Bratton, which provides empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of child-centered play therapy across various populations. Additionally, I discuss the challenges of switching between therapeutic models and the importance of maintaining consistency and trust in the child-centered approach. I also debunk the notion that child-centered play therapy is easier or less clinically driven, highlighting its depth and long-term benefits. Overall, I encourage Barbara and other practitioners to trust in the evidence and confidently advocate for the child-centered model.

Episode specific reference:
Baggerly, J. N., Ray, D. C., & Bratton, S. C. (Eds.). (2010). Child-centered play therapy research: The evidence base for effective practice. John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

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  • Cochran, N., Nordling, W., & Cochran, J. (2010). Child-Centered Play Therapy (1st ed.). Wiley.
  • VanFleet, R., Sywulak, A. E., & Sniscak, C. C. (2010). Child-centered play therapy. Guilford Press.
  • Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed.). Brunner-Routledge.
  • Bratton, S. C., Landreth, G. L., Kellam, T., & Blackard, S. R. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT) treatment manual: A 10-session filial therapy model for training parents. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Benedict, Helen. Themes in Play Therapy. Used with permission to Heartland Play Therapy Institute.
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