Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT)

Understand Play Therapy

Understand Play Therapy

This past Sunday, February 1st, marked the beginning of National Play Therapy Week which runs Feb. 1 – Feb. 7. This week, I have been posting information about what play therapy is, along with resources to learn more. For this week’s blog I decided to speak with Jessica Carmean, one of our counselors in the office uses play therapy with her child, adolescent and teen clients. She explained to me the style of play therapy she uses, Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT), and what it encompasses.

First, Jessica distinguished the differences between directive and non-directive play therapy:

  •  Directive play therapy is characterized by the active role of an adult who, rather than the child, is in charge of the play. The therapist predetermines the theme and content of the play and prescribes the type of activity in which the child will engage.  The child’s spontaneous input is limited by the preplanned structure of the theme, content, and pace of the prescribed activity.  Frequently the child’s role is that of recipient of information.
  • Nondirective play therapy is characterized by the active role of the child as the initiator of spontaneous play and by the participant-observer role of an adult whose actions are responsive to and guided by the child.
    • The child is in charge of the theme, content, and process of the play, selects the materials, and controls the pace.
    • The child’s play is spontaneous using the materials available in a prepared environment.

The National Institute of Relationship Enhancement and Center for Couples, Families and Children (NIRE) defined CCPT below:

“Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) is the method of play therapy developed by Virginia Axline, an associate of Carl Rogers. CCPT follows the principles of Client-Centered Therapy of creating a non-judgmental, emotionally supportive therapeutic atmosphere, but with clear boundaries that provide the child with psychological safety to permit the learning of emotional and behavioral self-regulation. Research has validated that this is a powerful method for decreasing a wide range of child problems, for overcoming traumatic experiences, for developing expressive freedom and creativity, and for building self-esteem and more mature, pro-social behaviors. CCPT is based on eight (sometimes broken up into 10 tenets) clear cut principles applied in a systematic way to equip the therapist with a method uniquely capable of handling the many challenges of playing therapeutically with children and achieving predictively positive results.” (National Institute of Relationship Enhancement, 2013).

Children communicate through toys and play

Children communicate through toys and play

CCPT is based on 10 tenets which form the backbone of this philosophy and way of relating to children. These tenets are as follows:

  1. Children are not miniature adults, and the therapist does not respond to them as if they were.
  2. Children are people. They are capable of experiencing deep emotional pain and joy.
  3. Children are unique and worthy of respect. The therapist prizes the uniqueness of each child and respects the person the child is.
  4. Children are resilient. Children possess a tremendous capacity to overcome obstacles and circumstances in their lives.
  5. Children have an inherent tendency toward growth and maturity. They possess an inner intuitive wisdom.
  6. Children are capable of positive self-direction. They are capable of dealing with their world in creative ways.
  7. Children’s natural language is play, and this is the medium of self-expression with which they are most comfortable.
  8. Children have the right to remain silent. The therapist respects a child’s decision not to talk.
  9. Children will take the therapeutic experience to where they need to be. The therapist does not attempt to determine when or how a child should play.
  10. Children’s growth cannot be sped up. The therapist recognizes this and is patient with the child’s developmental process.

So what is the purpose behind child-centered play therapy? Landreth, the founder of CCPT, set out 6 objectives for Child-Centered Play Therapy, which I have listed below. Ultimately, CCPT is looking to help the child become more self-reliant, more accepting of themselves, better problem solvers and better able to assume responsibility for their own behaviors. This can be simply stated as to: return the child to acting and responding in a developmentally appropriate manner.

Amy using Sand-Tray Therapy with a client

Amy using Sand-Tray Therapy with a client

Landreth’s 6 Objectives of Child-Centered Play Therapy:

  1. To establish an atmosphere of safety for the child. Play therapist cannot make the child feel safe; child discovers that in the relationship.
  2. To understand and accept the child’s world. Conveyed by being eagerly and genuinely interested in whatever the child chooses to do.  Acceptance means being patient with the pace of the child’s exploration
    1. Understanding is accomplished by relinquishing adult reality and seeing things from the child’s point of view
  3. To encourage expression of the child’s emotional world. Play materials are secondary to the expression of feelings by the child which they facilitate.  In play therapy, there is an absence of evaluation of feelings.  Whatever the child feels is accepted without judgment
  4. To establish a feeling of permissiveness. Not a totally permissive relationship. Child must feel or sense the freedom available in this setting.  Allowing (non-directively encouraging) the child to make choices creates a felling of permissiveness
  5. To facilitate decision making by the child. Accomplished largely by refraining from being an answer source for the child. Opportunity to choose: what toy to play with, how to play with it, what color to use, or how something will turn out creates decision-making opportunities which promote self-responsibility
  6. To provide the child with an opportunity to assume responsibility and to develop a feeling of control. Being in control of one’s environment may not always be possible.  Significant variable is that children feel in control.  Children are responsible for what they do for themselves in the playroom.  When the play therapist does for children what they can do for themselves, children are deprived of opportunity to experience what self-responsibility feels like.  Feeling in control is a powerful variable and helps children develop positive self-esteem.
Jessica using Play Therapy with a client

Jessica using Play Therapy with a client

The therapist’s purpose in the (play therapy) relationship is to contribute to the child’s development of self-responsibility, enhancement of self, and unfolding of self-directed change. The therapist will begin with an introductory message; this introductory message is designed to convey to the child that he is beginning a safe, unique, and special process

Click the link to read our previous blog, “What Parents Should Know About Play Therapy.”

If you’re interested in Orlando play therapy, Orlando child therapy, or Orlando teen therapy, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378 to set up a free phone consultation.  Our Orlando child counselors Amy Smith and Jessica Carmean are experienced and ready to assist you, your child, or your teen with play therapy.  Play therapy can help with child anxiety, child depression, child grief, childanger, child trauma, divorce, and many other issues children could be going through.  Not sure if play therapy would be right for your child?  Give us a call and our counselor-in-training will be happy to assist you in finding the Orlando counselor that is right for you!

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