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Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT)


Delivery Approach:
  • Group & Individual
Delivery Format:
  • In-Person
Provider Requirements:
  • Licensed/Certified Professional Led
Type of Experience Addressed:
  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Abuse 
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Community Violence
  • Neglect 
  • Family Separation
  • Homicide/Familicide 
  • Substance Abusing Caregiver 
  • Natural Disasters 
  • Grief/Bereavement 
  • Refugee/Immigration
  • Medical Trauma
  • Verbal/Emotional abuse
  • Mental Health Issues/Concerns
  • Mass shootings
  • Hate Crimes
  • Systemic/Interpersonal Racism
  • Historical trauma
Engagement Methods:
  • Play-based
  • Culturally-Grounded
Level of Intervention:
  • Primary Prevention
  • Intervention
  • Less than 12 weeks
  • Greater than 12 weeks
  • School
  • Home 
  • Hospital-based
  • Residential 
  • Domestic Violence Shelter
  • Homeless Shelter
  • Headstart and Early Education Programs
  • Day Care
  • Family service agencies
  • Mental Health Setting
  • Community-based agency
Program Details:
Type of services provided:

Developmentally responsive, play-based mental health intervention that utilizes play, the natural language of children and therapeutic relationship to provide a safe, consistent and therapeutic environment in which a child can experience full acceptance, empathy and understanding from the counselor and process inner feelings and experiences through play.

Program setting:

Outpatient clinic, school, community agency, hospital

Length of program/number of sessions:

15-20 weeks; 45 minute individual play sessions; adaptation for school setting is 16 sessions (30 minutes) delivered twice weekly for 8 weeks; CCPT can also be delivered in small group format

Type(s) of trauma/concerns addressed:

Anxiety, disruptive behavior, domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences, depressive symptoms

Symptoms addressed:

Trauma symptoms, academic and speech impairment, anxiety, aggression, attention problems, hyperactivity, disruptive classroom behavior, and comorbid internalizing and externalizing problems

Education level of providers:

Licensed mental health provider who has extensive training and supervision in CCPT

Additional information:


Unique/Innovative Characteristics:

Key element is a child’s experience within the counseling relationship is the factor that is most healing and meaningful in creating lasting, positive change. CCPT is available in many languages and has been adapted to a shorter format for schools.

Date Added/Updated:


Population Served

  • 0-5 (Early Childhood)
  • 6-12 (Childhood)
Population Language:
  • English
  • Spanish
  • Other Population Languages (Chinese)
Ethnic Racial Group:
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Indigenous People – American Indian/Native American, Alaskan Native
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • White
  • Child
Population Adaptations:
Age range of children served:

3-10 years old

Are parent/adult caregiver(s) included in intervention?

Parents are typically involved in consultation on a monthly basis.

Ethnic/racial and other groups served:

Indigenous, Black/African-American, Asian, Latinx, Immigrant/Refugee, White

Specific cultural adaptations:

CCPT ensures that play therapy rooms are culturally-inclusive to encourage a sense of belonging and cultural expression for children from diverse cultures. CCPT therapists are trained to invite and respond to cultural expression to meet the needs of children and families.

Languages that service/resource is available:

English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish


Goals of the program/services:

• Develop a more positive self-concept
• Assume greater self-responsibility
• Become more self-directing, self-accepting and self-reliant
• Engage in self-determined decision-making
• Experience a feeling of control
• Become sensitive to the process of coping
• Develop an internal source of evaluation
• Become more trusting of self

Evaluation Studies:
Has there been any evaluation?


Key evaluation results:

Many evaluation studies, including randomized controlled trials, have been conducted on CCPT. A list of published studies can be found at

Key findings include:

  • Children with multiple adverse childhood experiences who received CCPT demonstrated significant increases in social emotional competencies and decreases in behavioral problems compared to control group (Ray et al., 2022).
  • Children in the CCPT intervention demonstrated significantly less depressive symptoms compared to control group at posttest (Burgin & Ray, 2022).
  • Children receiving CCPT had lower aggression scores and higher self-regulation and empathy scores compared to children in waitlist control group (Wilson & Ray, 2018)
  • Children receiving CCPT had lower anxiety scores compared to the control group at posttest (Stulmaker et al, 2015)
  • Children in the CCPT intervention had lower teacher-reported aggressive behaviors compared to the waitlist control group at posttest (Bratton et al, 2013)
  • Children in the CCPT intervention group had higher composite academic achievement compared to the students in the waitlist control group at posttest (Blanco & Ray, 2011)


Is there an evaluation currently in progress or planned?

CCPT is consistently evaluated through ongoing research studies conducted across the world.

Publications about the program:

References for evaluation data cited here:

Blanco PJ & Ray DC. Play therapy in elementary schools: A best practice for improving academic achievement. Journal of Counseling and Development. 2011;89(2):235-243.

Bratton SC, Ceballos PL, Sheely-Moore AI, Meany-Walen K, Pronchenko Y, Jones LD. Head Start early mental health intervention: Effects of child-centered play therapy on disruptive behaviors. International Journal of Play Therapy. 2013;22(1):28-42.

Burgin, E. E., & Ray, D. C. (2022). Child-centered play therapy and childhood depression: An effectiveness study in schools. Journal of Child and Family Studies. doi:10.1007/s10826-021-02198-6

Ray, D. C., Burgin, E., Gutierrez, D., Ceballos, P., & Lindo, N. (2022). Child‐centered play therapy and adverse childhood experiences: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Counseling & Development, 100(2), 134–145. doi:10.1002/jcad.12412

Stulmaker HL & Ray. Child-centered play therapy with young children who are anxious: A controlled trial. Child and Youth Services Review. 2015;57:127-133.

Wilson, B., & Ray, D. (2018). Child‐centered play therapy: Aggression, empathy, and self‐regulation. Journal of Counseling & Development 96 (4): 399–409. doi:10.1002/jcad.12222.

Additional references:

Ray D, Purswell K, Haas S, Aldrete C. Child-Centered Play Therapy-Research Integrity Checklist: Development, reliability and use. International Journal of Play Therapy. 2017;26(4):207-217.

Ray DC, Stulmaker HL, Lee KR, Silverman WK. Child-centered play therapy and impairment: Exploring relationships and constructs. International Journal of Play Therapy. 2013;22(1):13-27.

Ray DC, Blanco PJ, Sullivan JM, Holliman R. An exploratory study of child-centered play therapy with aggressive children. International Journal of Play Therapy. 2009;18(3):162-174.

Ray DC, Schottelkorb A, Tsai MH. Play therapy with children exhibiting symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. International Journal of Play Therapy. 2007;16(2):95-111.

Rated/Reviewed by Evidence Based Registries:

NREPP: SAMSHA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare

Results First Clearinghouse Database

Training & Resources

Training Language:
  • English
  • Spanish
  • Chinese
Training Available:
  • Yes
Training Details:
Training manuals/protocols:

Ray D. 2011. Advanced Play Therapy: Essential conditions, knowledge and skill for child practice. New York, NY. Routledge.

Training Contact:

Center for Play Therapy, University of North Texas

Program Contact

Dee Ray, PhD
(940) 565-3864