Select Page

SSW Research Brief: Child-Centered Play Therapy in Schools

SSW Research Brief: Child-Centered Play Therapy in Schools

Ray, D., Armstrong, S., Balkin, R., & Jayne, K. (2015). Child-centered play therapy in the schools: Review and meta-analysis. Psychology in the Schools, 52(2), 107-123.

Article summarized by Minji Kim, MSW Student studying School Social Work at Loyola Chicago

What is the study about?

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effectiveness of child-centered play therapy (CCPT) in elementary school settings.

Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT):

Child-centered play therapy is an intervention that uses developmentally appropriate means of interacting (play) to help children express feelings and thoughts in healthy ways and build a foundation for behavioral self-control. In CCPT, the relationship between clinician and child is emphasized as a primary tool that allows children to explore and express themselves in a non-judgmental environment.

Types of responses that clinicians use in CCPT:

• Reflection of feelings       • Reflection of content        • Encouraging creativity

• Behavior tracking             • Relationship Building       • Limit-setting

• Fostering decision-making processing

What did they find?

• CCPT had small to medium size positive effects on student internalizing problems, externalizing problems, self-efficacy, academic achievement, social skills, attitude toward school, and teacher-child relationships.

• The changes in behavior for students who received CCPT were statistically significant when compared to students who received no treatment.

• On average, 12 sessions (typically 30-minutes long) yielded statistically significant results (compared to no treatment).

• Both individual and group CCPT sessions were effective.

Why is it important?

CBT is the most widely known and used intervention in schools. But sometimes CBT may not be suitable for younger students and/or students with cognitive or speech impairments. It is important for school social workers to know various evidence-based interventions that are feasible for use in the school setting, so they can choose the most appropriate intervention for each unique client.

What can School Social Workers do?

• School social workers can consider using CCPT with younger students and students who have difficulty communicating verbally.

• School social workers can find more information about the intervention at and

How was the study done?

Researchers systematically reviewed the literature base for studies examining the effectiveness of CCPT in elementary schools. They found 23 studies that used and evaluated CCPT in elementary schools. From the 23 studies, authors were able to assess the efficacy of CCPT across all of the studies.

About The Author

Michele Patak-Pietrafesa

Michele Patak-Pietrafesa, LISW-S is a PhD candidate in the College of Social Work at the Ohio State University. Her dissertation research explores teacher perceptions and how these relate to various outcomes for students of color. She teaches both in-person and online courses in research and statistics in the BSW program at OSU and conducts trainings and guest lectures on topics related to evaluating social work practice, school social work, and anti-racist practice.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest