e-book Helping Others Help Children: Clinical Supervision of Child Psychotherapy

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In some cases, you might be able to choose the specific agency or organization in which you'd like to work. If this is possible, it's advisable to select a school or an agency or organization that specializes in or at least offers the possibility of working with children, adolescents and families. Already having experience working with children can give you a significant advantage when the time comes to begin your job search.

You will need to obtain a state license in your field before you can provide child therapy services. Licensing requirements vary by state and area of practice. Generally speaking, most states will require you to submit proof of education, pass a licensing examination administered by the professional body that oversees your field of practice and provide proof of completion of a certain number of hours of postgraduate, supervised clinical experience.

You will also need to complete a mandated course on child abuse identification and reporting. Some states and professions may require you to complete a specific number of hours of continuing education coursework as a condition of maintaining licensure. While it's not required to be a child therapist, many clinicians choose to obtain voluntary certification in play therapy. Play therapy is a specialized form of treatment that allows children to express themselves through the mediums of play and art.

Obtaining this certification can provide you with additional education, supervision and experience working with and providing play therapy services to children.

janfiler | Clinical supervision for play therapists

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

Skip to main content. Education Child therapists must have at least a master's degree in social work or counseling or a doctoral degree in psychology. Training During your graduate studies, you'll need to complete an internship providing clinical services to clients under the direct guidance of a qualified supervisor. Several different approaches rely on the strength of the parent-child relationship as a significant factor in healing. Research has supported the effectiveness of therapeutic approaches involving parents from many backgrounds, ethnicities, and mental health problems.

After a decade of research and practice, Bernard G. Guerney and Louise F. Guerney described their development of filial therapy in Filial therapy trains parents in basic child-centered play therapy skills and procedures. Bratton formally developed a protocol for this ten-session model known as childparent relationship therapy CPRT.

In addition to her aforementioned contributions to play therapy for children, Jernberg has described the use of touch to connect the parent and child in a closer and more secure relationship. Children who have attachment difficulties can benefit from this model. Research studies conducted in Germany and Finland have also found promising results for this therapeutic approach Wettig, Franke, and Fjordbak Eyberg, is an evidence-based treatment for disruptive behavior in preschoolers Brinkmeyer and Eyberg PCIT focuses on improving the parent-child relationship by changing the parent-child interaction pattern.

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Drawing on both attachment and social learning theory, PCIT uses two phases of treatment to teach parents new ways of interacting with their child. In phase two, therapists coach parents in parent-child sessions to praise appropriate play behaviors and ignore inappropriate play behaviors. Sandtray therapy, a form of play using miniature figures and a tray of sand, has become an important approach with adolescents, adults, couples, and families.

Dora Klaff, a Jungian therapist influenced by Eastern mysticism, advanced this therapy in Switzerland in the s and s. She called it Sandplay, and it became popular worldwide. Lois Carey, a long-time proponent of the Klaffian approach, described it in detail in , and that same year, play therapists and counseling educators Linda E. Homeyer and Daniel Sweeney discussed it from a theoretically inclusive approach. Two recent research projects explored treatment effectiveness of group sandtray therapy.

Ray determined that group sandplay is an effective treatment intervention for preadolescents with behavior problems. Such play interventions with older children and adolescents often have the goal of using play to help them feel more comfortable and, therefore, more willing to talk about feelings and experiences Gallo-Lopez and Schaefer Slavson first considered the need for specialized treatment attending to the developmental needs of preadolescents in More recently, Jill Packman and Bratton found an activity-based approach effective with preadolescent learning-disabled students who exhibited behavioral problems at home and school.

Such play-based interventions often involve the use of symbolic expression to help adolescents express themselves and allow clients to have a safe distance between themselves and reality Bratton and Ferebee ; Malchiodi In , Schaefer promoted play therapy across the life span to encourage the use of the language and benefits of play for a wide age range. The play therapy field faces a number of issues. Among the most important is the critical need for an increase in the number of mental health professionals trained in play therapy. Play therapy presentations at professional conferences and other continuing education opportunities are in growing demand, and graduate schools need to offer more play therapy course work and clinical supervision opportunities.

The Association for Play Therapy APT maintains a directory of universities in the United States that offer graduate-level play therapy courses, clinical practica, and internship experiences. In , 33 universities offered course work in play therapy Landreth ; by , that number had grown to In the last four years, it has increased 40 percent, to universities.

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Of this total, 99 of these universities offer clinical experiences. This increase in graduatelevel training is immensely encouraging. To promote continued growth, APT is working with play therapy faculty members at doctorate-granting institutions to develop programs similar to the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas.


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Centers such as this will train future play therapy faculty, generate play therapy research, and provide additional graduate-level course work and continuing education opportunities. The growth of national professional associations is also helping meet the international mental health needs of children. The last five years have brought exponential growth in national associations— including organizations in Argentina, Australia, Taiwan, Mexico two organizations , Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.

Other countries have active play therapy communities as well. These credentials professionalize the play therapy field and protect client welfare. Several play therapy trainers who provide instruction in a wide variety of countries have noted that the dynamics of issues—such as sexual abuse, family violence, and alcoholic parents—dealt with in therapy there are very similar to those in the United States.

Nevertheless, individuals who either provide training in other countries or cultures or return to their own after training abroad must consider cultural differences. While some cultural adjustments—like types of toys and materials—are easily accomplished, others are difficult to identify. Several recent works have addressed cultural considerations in play therapy broadly Gil and Drewes ; Schaefer, McCormick, and Ohnogi , or have specifically illustrated the need for concern.

In , Shu-Chen Kao and Landreth described how helping children grow and develop within the belief system of their particular culture may mean changing how play therapists work with them. However, individualism is a Western value, and so Kao and Landreth suggested rephrasing these facilitative responses in ways that would help Chinese children learn to rely on self in relationship to others.

Another example is the participation of extended family members in the therapy. Traditional Hispanic families may have in the family system many adults who expect to be involved in meetings with the play therapist, both in consultations and in therapy. Clear, intentional, and thoughtful application of cultural considerations to foundational play therapy skills, procedures, and philosophy is important to develop culturally sensitive play therapists throughout the world. Equally important, the cultural dimensions of play therapy beg for additional research to inform best practices. Play therapy supervision is another critical component in developing welltrained, competent play therapists.

Bratton, Landreth, and Homeyer first wrote about the importance of play therapy supervision and discussed an intensive supervision model in In and , Ray differentiated between basic and more advanced play therapy skills and provided information about how supervisors can work more effectively with supervisees. Given the nonverbal nature of play therapy, supervisees may benefit from exploring supervision issues through nonverbal means.

Perhaps supervision experiences that use symbolism, metaphoric play, and art would be appropriate, if not the standard. Children are unpredictable and, in the safety of the playroom, may interact with the therapist in any number of ways. For example, children may be aggressive toward the therapist, demonstrate intense repetitive play, or express themselves symbolically and metaphorically. The play therapist must understand these dynamics. Experiencing these same dynamics in the supervision process would lead supervisees to a greater depth of understanding than they could get from words alone Morrison and Homeyer forthcoming Quality play therapy supervision includes working with therapists who have personal issues and difficulties and must prevent those from affecting their counseling.

Gil and Lawrence C. Rubin have suggested that countertransference issues are more frequent in therapeutic relationships involving children. Children bring their entire system—self, parents, siblings, agencies, schools, physicians, psychiatrists, and others—to therapy, thereby providing many different aspects of themselves to which the therapists may react. Unfortunately, there is a lack of experienced play therapists, well grounded in theory, with training in supervisory skills, to mentor the growing numbers of new professionals.

This is particularly true in international settings. Several important trends also characterize play therapy today. One of the most significant is disaster relief for children. Immediately after a disaster, children benefit from play interventions, with play therapy coming later as a follow-up intervention where and when available. In personal communication with the authors in , Jennifer N. Previously, Baggerly and Nadine D. Mescia as cited in Baggerly developed a model, Child C3ARE, to train play therapists to provide individual interventions to children in disaster response situations.

Elsewhere, Janine S. A number of other professionals, representing APT, have served on a task force to incorporate play-based interventions further in this type of crisis work for children. Teams of mental health professionals used these interventions in Sri Lanka after the Indian Ocean tsunami of These are tremendous accomplishments and significant steps forward, but the need continues for crisis organizations, such as the American Red Cross and others, to do more to provide developmentally appropriate mental health interventions for children during times of disaster response.

Baggerly recommended that play therapists receive in-depth training in disaster response principles and procedures, join emergency relief organizations, and continue to research developmentally appropriate disaster relief interventions for children. An unrelated but equally important trend in play therapy is the adaptation of filial therapy into prekindergarten and elementary classroom settings.

Research has shown successful use of the child-parent relationship training CPRT model noted above in working with preschool teachers whose students are hard of hearing and deaf Smith and Landreth In an innovative study in , Leslie Jones, Tammy J. Rhine, and Bratton investigated the effects of CPRT with high school mentors to determine the impact on the behavior of four- and five-year-olds referred for school adjustment problems. In similar studies in , Christopher J. Brown, working both alone and in partnership with Jodi M.

Crane, investigated the effects of CPRT with undergraduate students enrolled in human services classes. Another trend based on principles and procedures similar to CPRT but additionally influenced by Alfred Adler is kinder training. It helps teachers generalize filial therapeutic skills to the classroom setting. Several recent studies indicate promising results from it Post et al. The results suggest that CTRT is an effective, developmentally responsive intervention for use with young, at-risk children to ameliorate their behavioral difficulties.

In a research study, Wendy P. Helker found that teachers and aides who participated in the CTRT program increased their use of play therapy skills in the classroom and maintained them during follow-up. These studies confirm the effectiveness of training teachers to use play therapy skills to address the behavioral difficulties of young children in a school setting. Another trend is an increase in play therapy publication and research. Professional play therapy literature has been rapidly expanding its rich sixty-year accumulation due to global growth of the field, increased graduate-level academic opportunities, and greater focus on research.

For example, the Center for Play Therapy, which collects and houses all play therapy literature in its archives, identified approximately play therapy books, chapters, dissertations, and journal articles published in the last five years. Additionally, as Ray found in a comprehensive analysis of peer-reviewed journals and reported personally to the authors, counselor educators publish more frequently in the International Journal of Play Therapy than anywhere except in the journals of the various divisions of the American Counseling Association.

In , the International Journal of Play Therapy moved from a semiannual to quarterly status, thereby providing additional opportunities in a play-therapy-specific venue. At the same time that play therapy literature has been expanding, the quality and rigor of research standards have been changing. Broad-based research projects using poorly defined and convenient samples without comparison groups, and treating global problem behaviors without clearly specified protocols or approaches, no longer meet the demands of the current mental health environment.

Quality research—such as between-group design experiments, random assignment of subjects, use of treatment manuals and protocols, clearly defined client samples gender, age, race, and other —and appropriate analyses of data are required, as are single-case designs that meet rigorous research standards. All such research must meet current standards. Both Ray and T. Kerby Neill have compared research in highly controlled laboratory settings with research in professional practice, or real-world, settings. Quality is, of course, essential in both. Neill reminded us of philosophical questions in the therapeutic process, asking whether it is the theory and protocol, or some other factor in the therapeutic experience, that produces effective treatment outcomes.

He also suggested researching common factors in play therapy. In this, he citied the work of Bruce E. Recent meta-analyses of research about play therapy outcomes also support the importance of continuing study. Play therapy is a dynamic, growing field. National associations comprised of culturally unique communities of play therapy advocates are establishing standards and are demanding clinical publications and training to help inform their practices. The number of university programs preparing play therapy supervisors, faculty, and researchers is rising.

Treatment protocols and manualization are being refined and new ones developed, professional literature is mushrooming, and research is increasing. Allan, John A. Jungian play psychotherapy. In Play therapy theory and practice: A comparative presentation , ed. Kevin J. Association for Play Therapy. Axline, Virginia Mae. Play therapy: The inner dynamics of childhood.

Baggerly, Jennifer N. Preparing play therapists for disaster response: Principles and practices. International Journal of Play Therapy — Begley, Sharon. Newsweek, March 1. Benedict, Helen E. Object relations play therapy: Applications to attachment problems and relational trauma. In Contemporary play therapy: Theory, research, and practice , ed. Schaefer and Heidi Gerard Kaduson, 3— Bergen, Doris, and Juliet Cosica.

Brain research and childhood education: Implications for educators. Bratton, Sue C. The use of structured expressive art activities in group activity therapy with preadolescents. Daniel S. Sweeny and Linda E. Homeyer, — Ray, Tammy Rhine, and Leslie Jones. The efficacy of play therapy with children: A meta-analytic review of treatment outcomes.

Professional Psychology: Research and Practice — Brinkmeyer, Mary Y. Parent-child interaction therapy for oppositional children. In Evidence-based psychotherapies for children and adolescents , ed. Alan E. Kazdin and John R. Weisz, — Brown, Christopher J. Filial therapy training with undergraduate teacher trainees: Child-teacher relationship training. PhD diss. Dissertation Abstracts International, A 63 09 , Carey, Lois J.

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Sandplay therapy with children and families. The world of play therapy literature. Chambless, Dianne L. Defining empirically supported therapies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology — Crane, Jodi M. Effectiveness of teaching play therapy attitudes and skills to undergraduate human services majors. Preschoolers, parents, and teachers PPT : A preventive intervention with an at-risk population.

International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. Flahive, Mon-hsin Wang, and Dee C. Effect of group sandtray with preadolescents. Journal for Specialists in Group Work — Frost, Joe L. Neuroscience, play and child development. Gallo-Lopez, Loretta, and Charles E.

Training, qualifications & experience

Schaefer, eds. Play therapy with adolescents. Gil, Eliana. The healing power of play: Working with abused children. Play in family therapy. Gil, Eliana, and Lawrence C. Countertransference play: Informing and enhancing therapist self-awareness through play. Ginott, Haim G. A rationale for selecting toys in play therapy. Journal of Consulting Psychology — Ginsburg, Kenneth R.

The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics — Guerney, Bernard G. Psychotherapeutic agents: New roles for non-professionals, parents, and teachers. Guerney, Louise F. Client-centered nondirective play therap y. In Handbook of play therapy, ed. Schaefer and Kevin J. Harvey, Steve. Dynamic play therapy. In Contemporary play therapy , ed. Schaefer and Heidi G.

Kaduson, 55— Helker, Wendy Pretz. Hess, Barbara A. A follow-up study of kinder training for preschool teachers of children deemed at-risk. Jernberg, Ann Marshak. Theraplay: A new treatment using structured play for problem children and their families. Jones, Leslie, Tammy J. Rhine, and Sue C. Kao, Shu-Chen, and Garry L. Play therapy with Chinese children: Needed modifications.

In Innovations in play therapy: Issues, process, and special populations , ed. Garry L. Landreth, 43— Kottman, Terry. Partners in play: An Adlerian approach to play therapy. Landreth, Garry L. Play therapy: The art of the relationship. Leblanc, Michael, and Martin Ritchie. A meta-analysis of play therapy outcomes. Counselling Psychology Quarterly — Morrison, Mary O.