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Articles and Research

Theraplay has evidence-based status. Theraplay has been accepted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for inclusion on the National Registry for Evidence-based Programs and practices.

Published Research in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Hiles Howard, A. R., Lindaman, S., Copeland, R., & Cross, D. R. (2018). Theraplay impact on parents and children with autism spectrum disorder: Improvements in affect, joint attention, and social cooperation. International Journal of Play Therapy, 27(1), 56-68.

Siu, A.F.Y. (2009). Theraplay in the Chinese world: An intervention program for Hong Kong children with internalizing problems. International Journal of Play Therapy, 18(1), 1-12. (Download .pdf)

A primary objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of Theraplay on reducing internalizing problems among children. Described as at-risk for developing internalizing disorders, 46 children in grades 2-4 were randomly allocated to either the Theraplay condition (weekly Group Theraplay for 8 weeks) or the wait-list control condition. A standardized measure of internalizing symptoms (CBCL) was completed before and after the 8-week period. Results showed that children from the Theraplay condition showed significantly fewer internalizing symptoms when compared to the waitlist group.

Siu, A.F.Y. (2014). Effectiveness of Group Theraplay® on enhancing social skills among children with developmental disabilities. International Journal of Play Therapy, 23(4), 187-203.

Theraplay® is a play therapy approach that helps children form better relationships and attachments with others. It focuses on the nonverbal aspects of interaction. This study reports on a Group Theraplay program in a special school for children with developmental disabilities. Twenty-three students, arranged into four groups, participated in the year-long program that used Theraplay principles to enhance their social development. Results were compared with a group of 15 students who served as the comparison control. Data from the Social Responsiveness Scale showed that students from the Theraplay group had significant improvement in the subscale of “social communication” when compared with the comparison group. Feedback from teachers suggested new ideas in working with this group of children. A discussion of the rationale behind why Theraplay works for these children was presented. The limitations of this study and directions for future research are addressed.

Weir, K.N., Lee, S., Canosa, P., Rodrigues, N., McWilliams, M., & Parker, L. (2013). Whole Family Theraplay: Integrating Family

Systems Theory and Theraplay to Treat Adoptive Families Adoption Quarterly, 16 (3-4), 175-200. (Article Link)

This article regarding the effectiveness of Theraplay for the clinical treatment of adoptive families both outlines a model for integrating family systems theory with Theraplay to create a new approach entitled Whole Family Theraplay (WFT), as well as provides a preliminary report of a pilot study demonstrating the efficacy of that model. WFT integrates Theraplay with family systems approaches (Structural and Experiential Family Therapies) to treat parents and all the siblings within adoptive families. The findings indicate that WFT treatment may lead to statistically significant benefits in regard to family communication, adults’ interpersonal relationships, and children’s overall behavioral functioning.

Wettig, H. G.; Coleman, A. R.; Geider, F. J. (2011). Evaluating the effectiveness of Theraplay in treating shy, socially withdrawn children. International Journal of Play Therapy, 20(1), 26-37.

This study assessed the efficacy for dually diagnosed children with language disorder and shyness/social anxiety. Study 1 was longitudinal, with 22 children treated at a single institution by 1 therapist. Study 2 incorporated 167 subjects and therapists across multiple centers to evaluate generalizability. Results showed that children improved significantly on assertiveness, self-confidence, and trust. Social withdrawal was reduced. Expressive and receptive communication improved. Improvements were maintained over a 2-year period with no cases of relapse.

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