Child-Centered Play Therapy: A Viable Intervention?

In a recent article, “Patient Consultation in Child-Centered Play Therapy: A Model for Research and Practice,” published in 2015, researchers investigate and expand upon a type of therapy for children that has its roots in the work of Virginia Axeline in the late ‘60s. Axeline, who was a student of Carl Rogers, “developed nondirective play therapy as a developmentally appropriate application of person-centered theory with children.”

The authors of this recent article discuss child-centered play therapy and develop this intervention one step further.

While there are several approaches to play therapy, in general, play therapies aim to allow children to “process their experiences, develop creativity, and increase expression of self.” Play therapy is more than “merely playing”. Play therapies are theoretically based, developmentally appropriate, and have decades of evidence to support their use. Some of the benefits and goals of play therapy include emotional identification, emotional expression, self-esteem building, self-insight and the ability of the child to assume responsibility for their behaviors.

The authors of the abovementioned article note that play therapy may remain useful for children with ADHD, aggression, intellectual disabilities and the like. What’s more, parents may also play a role in child-centered play therapy (CCPT). Called “parental consultation” (PC), a parent’s role is an important part of this type of therapy.

The author’s write: “More narrowly, within play therapy, PC serves as a means to share with parents the progress of the child through play therapy and also provides the therapist the opportunity to teach specific skills to parents, when appropriate.”

That said, however, Parental Consultation “has received little attention in the research literature.” Interestingly, too, the authors report that most play therapists—94 percent—believe that parents play role in positive outcomes associated with this therapy. Play therapists also have reported that communication and education remain central to CCPT processes. The authors cite several ways for therapists to foster the parent-therapist relationship. They are:

• Be present to listen and respond to parent’s concerns

• Respect the parent as own expert on child

• Share relevant knowledge

• Teach therapeutic skills

The main finding of the authors’ article remains that, although parental involvement in play therapy is important to the success of the intervention, there remains a lack of training for therapists who seek to work with parents. “Overall, a review of the literature indicates that parent consultation research is limited, and to date, no researchers have investigated the effectiveness of parent consultation in play therapy,” the authors write. They continue: “The absence of a manualized parent consultation model in play therapy indicates this is an area in need of attention.”

Although more research is needed with regard to the role of parents in CCPT, as a therapeutic intervention, CCPT offers an evidence-based approach for children who may need assistance when dealing with ADHD, aggression, and other problems. Finally, with decades of research behind it, play therapy with most likely continue as a viable treatment option for children.


Schottelkorb, A., Swan, K., and Ogawa, Y. (2015). Patient Consultation in Child-Centered Play Therapy: A Model for Research and Practice. International Journal of Play Therapy, 24, 221 – 233.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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