Play therapy: Theory, practice and research

Nicola Birdsey, Maria Machi, Lisa Waycott

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter in a published conference proceeding


Within the field of child psychotherapy, debates on the inclusion of play therapy as a psychotherapeutic approach remain contentious; opposing schools of thought are yet to agree. This paper will present both perspectives; differentiating between models of child psychotherapy and play therapy used to promote mental wellbeing in young people. The merits and limitations of each model will be debated. Within Europe, there remains a lack of consistency and understanding of these two roles. While some countries use the terms ‘play therapist’, ‘child psychotherapist’ and ‘play psychotherapist’ interchangeably, most view these as very distinct disciplines. It is therefore essential that practitioners clearly understand the role of each discipline. This paper aims to raise awareness of play therapy, its efficacy and where it fits within child psychotherapy. It will specifically focus on the effectiveness of play therapy in enhancing emotional wellbeing for children and young people with psychological difficulties. It will provide an overview of play therapy, outlining its historical roots in child psychotherapy before charting its progress to contemporary child-centred play therapy. It will draw from relevant empirical research and current literature in the field of play therapy to highlight key factors required for successful therapeutic outcomes for children and young people. Case studies will be included to explore the effectiveness of these techniques in clinical and educational practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication18th European Association for Psychotherapy Conference: Promoting mental health in Europe, Valencia
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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