Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Paradise, Louis V.

Second Advisor

Herlihy, Barbara

Third Advisor

Romano, Dawn

Fourth Advisor

Levitov, Justin


Mental health problems can interfere with a child's ability to succeed in school (Hootman, Houck, & King, 2003) and ultimately increase the risk of family dysfunction, drug abuse, juvenile incarcerations, and school drop out (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2004). Because young children often lack the verbal skills needed to communicate anxieties or fears and because children naturally communicate through the use of play, elementary school counselors realize that play therapy is an appropriate alternative to talk therapy (Landreth, 2002). Although recent studies have demonstrated the efficacy of play therapy with elementary school students suffering from conduct disorders (Cochran & Cochran, 1999), autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy (Johnson, McLeod, & Fall, 1997), post traumatic stress disorder (Shen & Sink, 2002), and children at risk (Post, 1999), no studies have examined the specifics of how elementary school counselors who utilize play therapy deliver it to their students. The purpose of this study was to examine the use, beliefs, perceived barriers, and methods of play therapy delivery by elementary school counselors. Additionally, this study examined the methods used to overcome barriers to implementing play therapy. While the elementary school counselors surveyed in this study seem to agree that play therapy is useful to their students, and an overwhelming majority use it (78.8%), roughly half had not received any formal play therapy training. Several barriers to implementing play therapy were identified including a lack of time, space, training, resources, and support and/or understanding from parents, teachers, or school administrators. Participants discussed the methods they use to overcome barriers, such as buying their own play therapy materials and educating faculty and parents about the positive effects of play therapy through the use of newsletters, brochures, and bulletin boards. Respondents used over 30 different play therapy techniques; the three most utilized techniques were drawing, board games, and role play. Implications for elementary school counselor practice and training were given, as well as implications for future research.


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