Status of Play Therapy Research

Status of Play Therapy Research

Sue C. Bratton (University of North Texas, USA) and Alyssa Swan (University of North Texas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2224-9.ch001
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Abstract

With today's focus on evidence-based treatment (EBT) for children, play therapists are ethically responsible to identify and deliver effective interventions as well as synthesize the considerable body of play therapy research to support their practice and to advocate for play therapy as an evidence-base practice. Play therapists' ability to articulate research findings is particularly important as they consult with the adults in children's lives who make decisions regarding children's wellbeing including parents, teachers, school administrators and other professionals. This chapter aims to present an up-to-date comprehensive review and synthesis of contemporary play therapy research with a focus on studies employing randomized control group designs in order to provide play therapy practitioners with a guide to understanding and utilizing the substantial research base for play therapy.
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Status Of Play Therapy Research

With an increased focus on evidence-based treatment (EBT) for children, play therapists are ethically bound to identify and deliver appropriate and effective interventions. In addition, play therapists are charged with the responsibility of understanding and using the considerable body of play therapy research to support their practice and to advocate for play therapy as an evidence-base treatment for childhood disorders that interfere with children’s day to day functioning. Play therapists’ ability to articulate research findings is particularly important as they consult with the adults in children’s lives who make decisions regarding children’s wellbeing including parents, teachers, school administrators and other professionals.

National focus on the shortage of adequate mental health services for children (Center for Disease Control, CDC, 2013; Mental Health America, MHA, 2013; President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003; U.S. Public Health Service, 2000), along with the evidence-based movement has heightened attention on disseminating information about EBT’s for treating childhood mental health disorders and resulted in several texts (Baggerly, Ray, & Bratton, 2010; Chorpita, et al., 2011; Reddy, Files-Hall, & Schaefer, 2016; Russ & Niec, 2011; Silverman & Hinshaw, 2008; Weisz & Kazdin, 2010) and websites (California Evidence Based Clearinghouse, CEBC, 2016; evidencebasedchildtherapy.com, 2015; Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, SCCAP, 2016; National Center for Education and Evaluation, NCEE, 2016; SAMHSA National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, NREPP, 2016) aiming to guide professionals to provide child interventions with evidentiary support. Although, with the exception of Baggerly et al. (2010) and evidencebasedchildtherapy.com (2015), these sources have paid little attention to play therapy interventions for children despite decades of research that supports the evidence base for play therapy.

Despite increased advocacy and research foci on providing EBT’s for children over the past two decades, the number of children who go untreated continued to increase over this millennium (CDC, 2013; MHA, 2013; NCCP, 2014; U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). One possible explanation is the lack of currently recognized EBT’s that are responsive to the developmental needs of children (Weisz & Kazdin, 2010; Bratton, 2015). Play therapy is widely recognized as a developmentally responsive mental health intervention for children (Landreth, 2012; Schaefer, 2011), yet continually criticized for lack of empirical support (Phillips, 2009; Russ & Niec, 2011). Our goal for this chapter is to respond to this misperception by presenting a comprehensive review of the evidence base for play therapy. Through synthesis of contemporary meta-analytic and systematic reviews and summaries of individual play therapy outcome studies meeting criteria for methodological rigor and treatment protocol, this chapter provides play therapy practitioners with a guide to understanding and utilizing the substantial research base for play therapy.

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