Date of Award

8-10-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Dr. Dennis Gilbride

Second Advisor

Dr. Tiffany McNary

Third Advisor

Dr. Don Davis

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Erin Mason

Abstract

With exposure to potentially traumatic events occurring at high rates (Norris & Slone, 2013), many counselors will inevitably work with children who have experienced trauma. Researchers and clinicians have repeatedly found children who have experienced trauma often demonstrate specific behaviors and themes through their play (Gil, 2017; Chazan & Cohen, 2010; Schaefer, 1994). The combination of a child’s affect, play themes, and play behaviors can indicate possible posttraumatic stress (Cohen et al., 2010). The Posttraumatic Play Screening instrument (PTPS) was developed with the aim of providing clinicians a screening instrument for posttraumatic play following a single play therapy session. The PTPS underwent 4 phases of instrument development prior to this study including a thorough review of the play therapy and childhood trauma literature, an external expert reviewer, a focus group, and a pilot administration. Six domains, each with subitems, were identified to be included in the instrument: (a) Play Behaviors, (b) Play Themes, (c) Extreme Negative Affect, (d) Relational Themes, (e) Relationship with Play Therapist, and (f) Behaviors Displayed in Session. Initial criterion validity was established following a pilot administration. The aim of the current study was to assess the psychometric properties of the Posttraumatic Play Screening (PTPS). Instrument reliability was obtained by calculating Cronbach alpha to determine the instrument’s level of internal consistency. Findings revealed satisfactory levels for the measure overall and when calculated for the experimental and control video recording separately. Discriminant validity was established by comparing previously video recorded play therapy sessions of a child with a known trauma history and a child with no history of trauma. The traumatized child’s play received a significantly higher overall score on the PTPS. Additionally, the traumatized child’s play was rated significantly higher for the Play Themes, and Extreme Negative Affect domains, as well as the Negative Play Is and Unhelpful Relational Themes subcategories. Results indicated evidence of reliability and validity for the use of the PTPS as a screening measure to identify a posttraumatic response within children’s play.

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