Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Melissa Zeligman

Second Advisor

Catherine Y. Chang

Third Advisor

Franco Dispenza

Fourth Advisor

Tiffany McNary


Play therapy is a developmentally appropriate form of therapy for children that uses their natural mode of communication-play-to help them process experiences, thoughts, and feelings (Kottman, 2011; Kottman & Meany-Walen, 2016; Landreth, 1991). The unique nature of play therapy, however, is hypothesized to be more emotionally demanding and thus has potential for increased levels of work-related stress (Eastwood & Ecklund, 2008; McGarry et al., 2013; Perron & Hiltz, 2006; Van Hook & Rothenburg, 2009). This study investigated the relationships among moral distress, wellness, and professional quality of life (i.e., compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress) in Registered Play Therapists, Registered Play Therapist-Supervisors, and School Based-Registered Play Therapists (N = 161). Results indicated wellness was positively correlated with both burnout and secondary traumatic stress and negatively correlated with compassion satisfaction. Additionally, more experienced play therapists had higher levels of moral distress. Both moral distress and wellness were significant predictors for burnout; however, only wellness was a significant predictor for compassion satisfaction and secondary traumatic stress. Finally, play therapists overwhelmingly indicated creativity as an integral part of their wellness endeavors.


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