Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Dr. Joel Meyers

Second Advisor

Dr. Andrew Roach

Third Advisor

Dr. Catherine Perkins

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Laura Fredrick

Abstract

With the high prevalence of mental health disorders among children, there is a growing need for effective mental health interventions that will enhance overall wellness and functioning while meeting the developmental needs of children (Stagman & Cooper, 2010). In addition, there are increasing demands from policymakers, managed-care organizations, and educators to implement evidence-based interventions (EBIs), or treatments that are supported by strong research (Kratochwill & Shernoff, 2004). One treatment that shows promise as an effective, developmentally-appropriate intervention that meets the mental health needs of children is play therapy (Bratton, Ray, Rhine, & Jones, 2005; Landreth, 2002; Ray, 2011). Although results of play therapy studies have shown some significance in improving a variety of issues for children, the body of research has been criticized, primarily due to inconsistent or inconclusive results across studies or compromised research designs and methods (Phillips, 1985; 2010; Read, Hunter, & McMillan, 1999). In addition, the field also lacks differentiation among various theoretical play therapy approaches across the research base (Phillips, 2010). To address these gaps in the literature, this study utilized a strong research design to examine the effectiveness of child-centered play therapy (CCPT) on the challenging behaviors of three kindergarten students. A single-case multiple baseline design was used to maintain a high level of control with rigorous data collection methods (Kennedy, 2005; Ray and Schottelkorb, 2010). Research methods were designed to meet the What Works Clearinghouse pilot standards for single-case designs, which use stringent criteria in evaluating quality of research (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). The integrity of the CCPT intervention was assessed to ensure accurate implementation. Results from direct observational data suggested a relationship between CCPT and the improvement of classroom behaviors. In contrast to direct observational data, teacher ratings did not indicate improvements in behavior. Ratings by parents yielded significant results for improving behaviors at home. This study made valuable contributions to the literature by utilizing a strong research design and demonstrating promising findings for CCPT. Practical implications include using as few as eight sessions of CCPT as a behavioral intervention at school and engaging in ongoing teacher consultation to supplement CCPT.

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