The impact of a child centered play therapy intervention on the social emotional competency of a group of “at risk” children using a single case design

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Social-emotional development is foundational to children’s health, and academic outcomes. This study examined the effect of a child centered play therapy intervention on the social-emotional competency of a group of 5 “at risk” third grade. Participants were recruited from a Tier 1 elementary school and social-emotional competency was measured using the Social Emotional Assets and Resilience Scale (SEARS-C). The study utilized a single case research design to gather data in three phases over a 14-week period; 3-week baseline, 8-week intervention, 3-week follow-up phase. Participants Individual outcomes were mixed but visual analysis indicated group changes from the midpoint of the intervention, and at the culmination of the intervention. A Friedman’s test indicated significant differences in participant scores across time points. A polynomial trend analysis indicated initial higher trends, followed by a decrease in scores with an increasing trend noted from midpoint beyond the culmination of the intervention. Group outcomes offer important clinical and research perspectives. Group changes validates the effect of the developing therapeutic relationship, suggesting it offers a supportive base through which children can initiate behavioral and emotional change. However, trends also imply that the duration of the intervention was insufficient and that a longer intervention phase was required. High baseline scores throughout the study indicate possible self-report bias suggesting this influential effect should be considered in future studies. Overall, this study supports the use of CCPT as an effective clinical intervention for children deemed “at risk” and the value of a single case research design to capture nuanced clinical changes in play therapy. This study also offers insight into the therapeutic needs of an “at risk” population, in terms of self-report assessments, and how interventions are delivered. Suggestions for addressing barriers in future research are discussed.

Social-emotional development, Child centered play therapy