Play Therapy

  1. Any evidence supporting the effectiveness of play therapy for children is is characterized by its conspicous absence.
  2. For example, play therapy does not appear to enhance academic or intellectual achievement.
  3. Treatment effects for play therapy are conspicuously absent when dealing with specific behavioral disorders.
  4. Moreover, play therapy does not improve the interpersonal adjustment of children who participate in it.
  5. As long ago as in 1975, a review of treatment approaches for children emphasized that the era of blind faith in the activities of play therapy had ended. In other words, play therapy amounts to what - at best - is an experimental treatment not known to be effective.
  6. The parents of children participating play therapy assume their children respond positively to this treatment. These parental impressions, however, are not supported by objective data. In other words, the outcomes parents attribute to their children's therapy are influenced more by their excessively optimistic expectations than anything else.
  7. Related data also demonstrate that play therapy does not effectively aid children known to have been abused. The study supporting this conclusion reported: "No consistent support was found for the hypothesis that time-limited play therapy would improve the adjustment of maltreated preschoolers who already were attending a therapeutic preschool."
  8. In cases of suspected sexual abuse, however, play therapy can distort and confuse the recall of children.
  9. In these cases of distorted memory, the therapist becomes the source of what the child remembers rather than the event in question.

If you want to know more about play therapy, you may want to order reprints of any of the following articles authored by Dr. Campbell.

Promoting play therapy: Marketing dream or empirical nightmare? Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 1992, 4, 111-117. (Order article #3, Cost $10.00).

False allegations of sexual abuse and the persuasiveness of play therapy. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 1992, 4, 118-124. (Order article #4, Cost $10.00).

Beware The Talking Cure: Psychotherapy May Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health. Social Issues Resources Series (SIRS), Upton Books, Boca Raton, FL., September 1994. Order from

Smoke and Mirrors: The Devastating Effect of False Sexual Abuse Claims. Insight Books division of Plenum Publishing, New York, NY, September 1998. Order from

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© 2011 Dr. Terence W. Campbell, Ph.D., ABPP