The Evolution of a University-Based Center of Play Therapy Education

The Evolution of a University-Based Center of Play Therapy Education

Tiffany McNary (Georgia State University, USA), Galina Kadosh Tobin (Georgia State University, USA) and Sarah D. Stauffer (Association ESPAS, Switzerland)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8226-7.ch003
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More beginning graduate students and new mental health professionals are seeing children and families in their therapeutic work, creating a growing need for play therapy-specific training and supervision. Training students and professionals in the art of play therapy is critical to the wellbeing of children, families, and the future profession. A university-based approved center of play therapy education aims to fulfill this growing need while undertaking a momentous amount of responsibility. Training skilled play therapists is a complex endeavor requiring a combination of foundational knowledge, advanced clinical and conceptual skills, and supervision that surpasses classroom coursework requirements. The authors describe the evolution of Georgia State University's Center of Play Therapy Education and Play Therapy Training Institute to provide readers with a comprehensive model for play therapy training and supervision.
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“In play a child is always above his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself... play contains all developmental tendencies in a condensed form” (Vygotsky, 1966/2016, p. 18). From this 1933 lecture, Vygotsky emphasized the role of play within his larger cultural-historical approach, noting that “play is the leading source of development in preschool years” (as cited in Bodrova & Leong, 2015, p. 376). Children’s need for play remains a constant factor in their development. Recent changes in child development have increased concerns among parents and professionals alike. Georgia State University’s (GSU) Center for Play Therapy Education and Play Therapy Training Institute put child development at the forefront of instruction, practice, and supervision training experiences, allowing students and practicing professionals to address children’s mental health concerns in a developmentally appropriate way: through play.

Parental responses to a national survey of children’s health showed one in seven children (14%) aged two to eight years old had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder (Bitko et al., 2016). Reviewing national data, Knopf, Park, and Paul Mulye (2008) similarly concluded that 20-25% of youth experience symptoms of emotional distress and about one in ten may have significant impairment from moderate to severe symptomatology. By 2030, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2002) estimates there will be 83.2 million children under 18 years of age in the US, an increase from 72.0 million children in 2000, creating an arguably greater need for child mental health practitioners in the next decade.

Reporting on the state of children’s mental health, U.S. Surgeon General, Admiral David Satcher, wrote, “growing numbers of children are suffering needlessly because their emotional, behavioral, and developmental needs are not being met by the very institutions and systems that were created to take care of them” (U.S. Public Health Service, PHS, 2000, Foreward, para. 1). Satcher called for including child- and family-centered mental health services in all systems that serve this population, engaging families, and integrating children’s perspectives in mental healthcare planning (PHS, 2000). GSU’s programs now involve parents and teachers, however, these and other child mental health training institutions face a number of program complexities; the changing and growing needs of the helping professions have created a training gap between the focus of education programs and the knowledge and skills needed for successful practice (Hoge, Huey, & O’Connell, 2004; Huang, Macbeth, Dodge, & Jacobstein, 2004).

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