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Play Therapy Outcome Research Database

This database aims to include all available play therapy intervention outcome research since 1995 to the present published or translated in English that meets the definition of play therapy established by the Association for Play Therapy (APT).  View inclusion criteria

Studies included in the database meet the following criteria:

  • Treatment/Intervention met APT’s definition of play therapy: "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
  • Experimental or Quasi-experimental research design including randomized and nonrandomized control/ comparison groups, single group, and single case designs using repeated measurements.
  • Study published in English. If not, and the abstract was published in English, the Center for Play Therapy had study methodology and results translated into English.

Note: Future plans include the addition of outcome research on play-based interventions that failed to meet the APT definition such as Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), Incredible Years (IY), and Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP).

The objective is an interactive, sortable database of treatment outcome research which can serve as a useful source of information regarding the evidence base for play therapy’s effectiveness. View key for abbreviations of study characteristics

Play therapy (PT) treatment models identified with acronyms:

CCPT = Child-Centered Play Therapy
CPRT = Child Parent Relationship Therapy
CTRT = Child Teacher Relationship Therapy
AdPT = Adlerian Play Therapy
CBPT = Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy

Control group type denoted by:

WC = waitlist/delayed start control
AC = active control
COMP = comparison treatment

Ethnicity denoted by:

AfAm = African American
Asian = people of Asian descent living in the U.S.
Cauc = Caucasian/European American
Lat = Latino/Hispanic
NatAm = Native American


Database developed by: Dr. Sue Bratton, Eric Dafoe, Alyssa Swan, Kristie Opiola, Damian McClintock, & Gustavo Barcenas

Treatment Model

Child-Centered Group PT

Research Design

Randomized Waitlist Control

Authors & Publication Information

Cheng, Y. & Ray, D.C. (2016). Child-centered group play therapy: Impact on social-emotional assets of kindergarten children. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 41(3), 209-237.

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 43 children identified with social or emotional concerns

  • Age: 5-6; M = 5.14
  • 70% male, 30% female
  • 44% Lat, 33% Cauc, 23% AfAm

Study Characteristics

Group CCPT

  • 15-16 sessions
  • 2x weekly; 30min

Measurements

SEARS-P Social and Emotional Assets and Resilience Scales - Parent
SEARS-T Social and Emotional Assets and Resilience Scales - Teacher

Findings

Factorial ANOVA results indicated a statistically significant interaction effect on SEARS-P Total score, Social Competence subscale, and Empathy subscale indicating positive impact of CCGPT with medium effect sizes. SEARS-T indicated no statistically significant differences between groups with a small effect size. Group size held similar results.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Child-Centered PT

Research Design

Randomized-Waitlist Control

Authors & Publication Information

Su, S.H. & Tsai, M.H. (2016). Group play therapy with children of new immigrants in Taiwan who are exhibiting relationship difficulties. International Journal of Play Therapy, 25(2), 91-101

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 8 new immigrant children exhibiting interpersonal relationship difficulties

  • Age: 8-9; M = 8.5
  • 50% male; 50% female
  • 37.5% Vienamese, 37.5% Chinese, 25%Thai

Study Characteristics

Group CCPT

  • Avg: 12 Sessions
  • 1x weekly; 40mins

Measurements

Social Skill Behavior and Characteristics Scale for Elementary and Junior School Students (SSBCS)
Parenting Stress Index (PSI)

Findings

Compared to control group, CCPT group demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in relationship difficulties on the SSBCS student and teacher versions. Compared to control group, CCPT group only demonstrated statistically significant decreases on the mood subscale of the PSI child domain and on the role restriction subscale of the PSI parent domain.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Child-Centered PT

Research Design

Single Case Experimental Design

Authors & Publication Information

Balch, J.W., & Ray, D.C. (2015). Emotional assets of children with autism spectrum disorder: A single case therapeutic outcome experiment. Journal of Counseling and Development, 93, 429-439.

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 5 children diagnosed with ASD

  • Age: 6-9; M = 7.2
  • 60% male, 40% female
  • 60% Cauc, 20% Lat, 20% AfAm

Study Characteristics

Individual CCPT

  • 20 sessions
  • 2x wkly; 30mins

Measurements

Social-Emotional Assets and Resilience Scales for Parents (SEARS-P)

Findings

Explored the effect of CCPT on social competence, empathy, and self-regulation. Visual analysis demonstrated that CCPT was beneficial for 3 children, whereas results for 2 children were mixed.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Child-Centered PT

Research Design

Randomized-Waitlist Control

Authors & Publication Information

Blanco, P. J., Muro, J. H., Holliman, R., Stickley, V. K., & Carter, K. (2015). Effect of child-centered play therapy on performance anxiety and academic achievement. Journal of Child and Adolescent Counseling, 1(2), 66-80. doi: 10.1080/23727810.2015.1079117

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 59 children

  • 6-7; M = 6.5
  • 53% male, 47% female
  • 69% Cauc, 17% Lat, 7% AfAm, 2% Asian, 5% Other

Study Characteristics

Individual CCPT

  • 16 sessions
  • 2x wkly; 30 mins

Measurements

Early Achievement Composite of the Young Children’s Achievement Test (YCAT)
Woodcock Johnson III Total Brief Achievement (WJIII ACH)
Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale (RCMAS-2)

Findings

Compared to the waitlist control group, children in the CCPT group demonstrated statistically significant increase in early achievement scores (YCAT). Additionally, children in the CCPT group demonstrated statistically significant lower mean scores on anxiety (RCMAS-2). Compared to the waitlist control group, children in the CCPT group demonstrated no significant difference on achievement test scores (WJIII ACH) between the groups.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Child-Centered PT

Research Design

Meta Analysis

Authors & Publication Information

Lin, Y., & Bratton, S. C. (2015). A meta-analytic review of child-centered play therapy approaches. Journal of Counseling and Development, 93(1), 45-58. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2015.00180.x

Child Sample Characteristics

52 controlled outcome treatment studies

  • N = 1848 children across studies (avg. 40 children per study)
  • Avg age: 6.7
Ethnicity
  • 15 studies reported majority of non-Caucasian children
  • 15 studies reported majority Caucasian children
  • 16 studies reported mixed ethnicity
  • 6 studies ethnicity data not reported
Sex
  • 33 studies reported majority males
  • 11 studies reported majority females
  • 8 studies failed to report sex

Study Characteristics

Avg: 11.87 sessions

Measurements

The 52 studies in this meta-analysis utilized a variety of instruments with behavioral measures predominant.

Findings

The authors reported a statistically significant overall moderate treatment effect size of 0.47 for play therapy interventions following CCPT methodology (filial therapy studies included). Findings further revealed statistically significant treatment effects for outcome constructs including global behavior problems (ES = 0.48), internalizing behavior problems (ES = 0.42), externalizing behavior problems (ES = 0.33), caregiver-child relationship stress (ES = 0.59), self-efficacy (ES = 0.63), and academic performance (ES = 0.46). The authors concluded statistically significantly higher treatment effect for non-Caucasian children, for children younger than eight years old, and for children whose parents were fully involved in the treatment process.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Adlerian PT

Research Design

Single Case Experimental Design

Authors & Publication Information

Meany-Walen, K. K., Bullis, Q., Kottman, T., & Taylor, D. D. (2015). Group adlerian play therapy with children with off-task behaviors. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 40(3), 294-314.

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 2 children with disruptive classroom behaviors

  • Age: 6
  • 100% male
  • 100% Cauc

Study Characteristics

Group Adlerian PT

  • 6 play sessions
  • 2x wkly; 45 mins

Measurements

Direct Observation Form (DOF)
Teacher-Caregiver Report Form (TRF)

Findings

Students' on-task behaviors improve during Group Adlerian PT with large effect sizes.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Adlerian PT

Research Design

Single Case Experimental Design

Authors & Publication Information

Meany-Walen, K. K., Kottman, T., Bullis, Q., & Taylor, D. D. (2015). Effects of adlerian play therapy on children's externalizing behavior. Journal of Counseling and Development, 93(4), 418-428.

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 5 children with disruptive classroom behaviors

  • Age: 6
  • 100% male
  • 100% Cauc

Study Characteristics

Individual Adlerian PT

  • Avg: 16 play sessions
  • 2x wkly; 30 mins

Measurements

Caregiver-Teacher Report Form (C-TRF)
Direct Observation Form (DOF)

Findings

Results revealed an improvement in the children’s behavior during and after the intervention.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Sandtray PT

Research Design

Nonrandomized-Waitlist Control

Authors & Publication Information

Momeni, K., & Kahrizi, S. (2015). The effectiveness of sand play therapy on the reduction of the aggression in preschool children. Journal of Iranian Psychologists, 11(42), 147-158.

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 54 children who demonstrated aggressive behaviors

  • Age: Preschool
  • 100% Iranian

Study Characteristics

Sandtray PT

  • 10 sessions
  • 1x weekly; 45 min

Findings

Children demonstrated statistically significant decreases in aggressive behaviors. Results indicated that results were maintained for two months post-treatment.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Child-Centered PT

Research Design

Single Case Experimental Design

Authors & Publication Information

Schottelkorb, A. A., Swan, K. L., Jahn, L., Haas, S., & Hacker, J. (2015). Effectiveness of play therapy on problematic behaviors of preschool children with somatization. Journal of Child and Adolescent Counseling, 1(1), 3-16.

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 2 children with clinical levels of somatization

  • Age: 4
  • 50% male, 50% female
  • 100% Cauc

Study Characteristics

Individual CCPT

  • 14 play sessions
  • 2-3x wkly; 30 mins

Measurements

Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition-Student Observation System (BASC-2:SOS)
Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition-Parent Rating Scale-Preschool (BASC-2: PRS-P)
Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition-Teacher Rating Scale-Preschool (BASC-2:TRS-P)

Findings

Both children experienced a statistically significant reduction in problematic behaviors throughout participation in CCPT; PEM effect sizes were large.

Expand for findings & study characteristics
Treatment Model

Child-Centered PT

Research Design

Randomized-Active Control

Authors & Publication Information

Stulmaker, H. L., & Ray, D. C. (2015). Child-centered play therapy with young children who are anxious: A controlled trial. Children and Youth Services Review, 57, 127-133. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.08.005

Child Sample Characteristics

N = 53 children who exhibited clinical or borderline levels of anxiety

  • Age: 6-8; M = 6.5
  • 68% male; 32% female
  • 45% Cauc, 21% AfAm, 19% Lat, 13% Biracial, 2% Asian

Study Characteristics

Individual CCPT

  • Avg: 15 sessions
  • 2x wkly; 30 mins
AC = Structured Activity Group
  • Avg: 7 sessions
  • 1x wkly; 30 mins

Measurements

Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale, Second Edition (RCMAS-2)
Teacher Report Form (TRF)

Findings

Compared to active control, CCPT demonstrated statistically significant decrease in worry and overall anxiety; treatment effects were large. Children in active control group increased their levels of anxiety and worry.

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