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Child-Centred Play Therapy


A major development of person-centred creative approach came from Virginia Axline, Carl Rogers’ student and a child psychotherapist from North America (Axline, 1974, 1989). Axline adopted and extended the person-centred approach as a child-centred model of play therapy, is based on a process of being with children as opposed to a procedure of application (Sweeney & Landreth, 2011). Axline began the person-centred therapeutic approach to work with children age range from four years to twelve (Axline,1974), first known as ‘non-directive play therapy’, later referred to as ‘person-centred play therapy’ and then called ‘child-centred play therapy’ (Landreth, 2002).

Axline applied Rogers’ core concept of the person-centred approach in her therapeutic work, and she demonstrated the necessity of play for children as their way of communication (Axline, 1974). The common view of the therapist’s role is to avoid any diagnosis or investigation of the symptoms.


Play therapy is based upon the fact that play is the child’s natural medium of self-expression. It is an opportunity which is given to the child to play out his feelings and problems just as, in certain types of adult therapy, an individual talks out his difficulties’. (Axline, 1974)


Although Axline initiated the application of the person-centred philosophy to play therapy, other key scholars continued to contribute meaningfully in the development and practice of play therapy for wider use with children and adolescents (Dorfman, 1951; Moustakas, 1959, 1973, 1997; Ginott, 1959, 1960; Guerney, 2001; Landreth, 2001, 2002; West, 1996; Behr, 2003; Wilson & Ryan, 2005; Cochran et al., 2010; VanFleet et al., 2010). These theorists agree that the child leads the session, that the toys and materials are used as a medium for communication, that the therapist needs to establish the therapeutic relationship and that the therapist should be involved in a non-directive way following the child’s wishes. (Azizah Abdullah, 2015).


Garry L. Landreth, Ed.D., LPC, RPT-S                                                                                     

Founder of the Centre for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas, USA.

Landreth (2002) defines child-centred play therapy as ‘a dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child (or person of any age) and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures who provides selected play materials and facilitates the development of a safe relationship for the child (or person of any age) to fully express and explore the self (feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviours) through play, the child’s natural medium of communication, for optimal growth and development’.

Consistent with previous scholars, he emphasised therapist attitudes as a way of being in relation to the child rather than doing something such as imposing procedures or applications on them (Landreth, 2002; Sweeney & Landreth, 2011).

My term defines for CCPT:                                                                             

Child-centred play therapy is defined as a dynamic therapeutic relationship in which a safe and facilitative environment is created, based upon the core concepts of the person-centred approach, and through the use of toys and play materials to facilitate verbal and non-verbal communication as well as to assist in expression of emotions and experiences. (Azizah Abdullah, 2015)


One significant contribution in child-centred play therapy in Europe is from the German child psychotherapist, Prof. Michael Behr who also extended person-centred play therapy to adolescents, involved parents and families, and provided the evidence from wider empirical studies (Behr & Cornelius-White, 2008; Holldampf et al., 2010).


Behr went one step further by introducing the concept of interactive resonance, which goes beyond a classical approach that limits the therapist to observing only or responding to the child’s play (Behr, 2003; Holldampf et al., 2010). Interactive resonance is referred to as`inter-action` between the therapist and the child in which the therapist actively and fully engages in the ‘here and now’ situation with a deeper, personal level of empathy and authenticity (Behr, 2003; Personal communication, 9 May 2008). Moreover, the therapist not only mirrors the child’s encounter, but responds in a way to the child that Behr refers to as a process of fair negotiation (Azizah Abdullah, 2015).

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