SUNY College at Oswego

School of Education

Counseling and Psychological Services Department

Instructor:††††† Jodi Mullen, Ph.D. LMHC NCC RPT-S

312-3496 (office)††††

Office Hours: By appointment only

  1. Course Number & Credit: CPS 592 3 semester hours
  2. Course Title: Introduction to Play Therapy
  3. Course Description: This course is intended to provide students with an overview of play therapy. It is intended that students will acquire a theoretical and applied understanding of the child-centered model of play therapy and the philosophy and skills necessary for counselors to include play therapy as a part of their intervention repertoire.
  4. Prerequisites: Graduate student status in counseling and psychological services or a related field; or permission of the instructor.
  5. Justification for the Course: This initial course in play therapy enables students to develop and apply their theoretical and practical knowledge for using play therapy as a part of their therapeutic repertoire. The specialized principles of play therapy are most appropriately understood and acquired in an authentic learning context. This course is appropriate for students who have already acquired a theoretical foundation in the area of counseling. This course is offered as an elective. Because of the applied training aspect of this course, class size should be limited to 15 students.
  6. Course Objectives: This course is designed to enable students to:
    1. Describe the various theoretical approaches to play therapy.
    2. Demonstrate the comprehension of and an ability to employ the Eight Basic Principles according to Axline.
    3. Implement play therapy in order to create an accepting atmosphere for the client.
    4. Perform physical attending skills that facilitate counselor-client interaction.
    5. Employ the skills of reflective response, limit setting, and structuring during a play therapy session.
    6. Identify and assess the client's concerns.
    7. Conduct an ongoing self-directed inquiry as it relates to the play therapy self-supervision skills.
    8. Discuss the legal and ethical issues involved with the practice of play therapy.
    9. Describe the impact of multicultural issues in play therapy.
  1. Course Outline:

The Introduction to Play Therapy course is expected to familiarize the student with the play therapy approach to counseling children. The approach includes understanding various models of play therapy, using the skills of reflective listening, limit setting, structuring of sessions and identifying themes in children's play. Students will also gain experience in case consultation and clinical supervision. It is intended that the student will have exposure to and/or involvement in the following areas of learning:†††††††††††††

A.     Models of play therapy;

B.     The child-centered philosophy of play therapy;

C.    Limit setting and structuring in sessions, using reflective responses;

D.    Themes in children's play;

E.     Child-centered interviews;

F.     Play therapy sessions, both mock and real;

G.    Group supervision of play therapy sessions; and

H.    Clinical supervision of play therapy sessions.††


  1. Methods of Instruction:

Lecture, large group discussion, role playing, large group supervision, out of class assignments, video demonstrations, participation in play therapy session laboratory.

  1. Course Requirements:
  1. Students are to maintain a log of their experience of weekly in-class activities and any out-of-class processing assignments. Students are required to review a play therapy list-serv or web site as part of their log. (20%)

B. Students are required to submit 3 reaction papers to assigned readings.

Submit a two page, double spaced, type written paper discussing your reaction to Play Therapy by Virginia Axline. (20%)

Submit a two page, double spaced, type written paper discussing your reaction to Dibs: In Search of Self by Virginia Axline. (20%)

Submit a two page, double spaced, type written paper discussing your reaction to an article from a professional journal on the topic of play therapy. (20%)

  1. Students will be required to engage at least one volunteer child using a play therapy approach. This session is to be video taped for later playback.
  2. Students are required to make a minimum of two entries on the list-serv
  3. Students are required to attend class meetings regularly and to be prepared to participate in class activities and discussions. (20%)
  4. Students are required to complete readings assigned by the instructor.
  1. Means of Evaluation: Letter grades will be assigned. To successfully complete the course each student will be expected to:
    1. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of child-centered play therapy theory and an ability to employ the skills necessary to perform this modality, as evidenced by class performance and video-taped sessions;
    2. Complete written and reflection assignments on the due date to the satisfaction of the student and the instructor; and
    3. Attend all classes and participate appropriately in discussions and feedback.

Required Texts:

Axline, V.M. (1947). Play Therapy. NY:Ballantine Books,

Axline, V.M. (1969). Dibs: In Search of Self. NY:Ballantine Books.

Mullen, J. A. (2007). Play therapy basic training: A guide to living and learning

††††††††††† the Child-centered Play therapy philosophy. Oswego, NY: Integrative †††††††† Counseling.


Tentative Course Schedule





Introduction, Overview, Different models of PT, Introduction to child-centered philosophy, 8 Basic Principles

Read Play Therapy


Reflective responses limit setting, structuring the session, toys, themes, symbolic meanings

Begin reading Basic Training


Stages, termination, setting up a session, cross-cultural play therapy, mock sessions

Reaction paper Play Therapy due


Mock sessions, group supervision

Read Dibs



Student video sessions, group supervision

Student videos due

Reaction paper Dibs Due


Student video session, peer††† supervision, certification, further training

Reaction paper selected†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† article due


No class

Reaction Log Due



Axline, V. M. (1949). Play therapy experiences as described by child participants. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 14, 53-63.

Axline, V. M. (1947). Play Therapy. New York, NY: Ballantine.

Barnes, M. A. (1996). The healing path with children: An exploration for parents and professionals. New York, Viktoria, Fermoyle & Berrigan Publishing House.

Campbell, C. A. (1993). Play, the fabric of elementary school counseling programs. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 28 (1), 10-16.

Carmichael, K. D. (1994). Sand play as elementary school strategy. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 28 (4), 302-307.

Cerio, J.D. (1994). Play therapy: A brief primer for school counselors. Journal for the Professional Counselor, 9 (2), 73-80.

Duff, S. E. (1996). A study of the effects of group family play on family relations. International Journal of Play Therapy, 5(2), 81-93.

Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and Society. (2nd. ed.). New York, NY: WW Norton.

Fall, M. (1994). Physical and emotional expression: A combination approach for working with children in the small areas of a school counselorís office. School Counselor, 42, 73-77.

Freud, A. (1922-1935). Introduction to psychoanalysis: Lectures for child analysts and teachers (Vol.1). New York, NY: International Universities Press.

Gil, E. (1991). The healing powers of play: working with abused children. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Gil, E. (1994). Play in family therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Ginott, H. G. (1959). The theory and practice of "Therapeutic Intervention" in child treatment. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 23, 160-166.

Glover, G. J. (1994). The hero child in the alcoholic home: Recommendations for counselors. School Counselor, 41, 185-190.

Klein, M. (1934). The psychoanalytic play technique. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 25, 223-237.

Kottman, T. (1995). Partners in play: An Adlerian approach to play therapy. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Kranz, P.L; & Lund, N.L. (1993). 1993: Axlineís eight principles of play therapy revisited. International Journal of Play Therapy, 2(2), 53-60.

Landreth, G. L. (1991). Play therapy: The art of the relationship. Bristol, PA: Accelerated Development.

Landreth, G. & Wright, C. S. (1997). Limit setting practices of play therapists in training and experienced play therapists. International Journal of Play Therapy, 6, 41-62.

McCalla, C.L. (1994). A comparison of three play therapy theories: psychoanalytical, Jungian, and client-centered. International Journal of Play Therapy, 3(1), 1-10.

Mann, D. (1996). Serious play. Teacherís College Record, 97(3), 446-449.

Matorin, A. I., & McNamara, J. R. (1996). Using board games in therapy with children. International Journal of Play Therapy, 5(2), 3-16.

Moustakas, C. E. (1953). Children in play therapy: A key to understanding normal and disturbed emotions. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Mullen, J. A. (2007) Play therapy basic training: A guide to learning and living the Child-centered play therapy philosophy. Oswego, NY: Integrative Counseling Services

Nemiroff, M.A., & Annunziata, J. (1996). A childís first book about play therapy. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.

Oaklander, V. (1988). Windows to our children. (4th ed.). Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.

Orton, G. L. (1997). Strategies for counseling with children and their parents. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Phillips, E., & Mullen, J. (1999). Client-centered play therapy techniques for elementary school counselors: Building the supportive relationship. Journal of the Professional Counselor, 14, 25-36.

Roopnarine, J. L., Johnson, J.E. & Hooper, F. H. (Eds.) (1994). Childrenís play in diverse cultures. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Singer, D.G. (1993). Playing for their lives: Healing troubled children through play therapy. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Tanner, Z., & Mathis, R. D. (1995). A child-centered typology for training novice play therapists, International Journal of Play Therapy, 4(2), 1-13.

Van de Putte, S. J. (1995). A paradigm for working with child abuse survivors of sexual abuse who exhibit sexualized behaviors during play therapy. International Journal of Play Therapy, 4(1), 27-49.

Webb, N. B. (Ed.) (1991). Play therapy with children in crisis: A case book for practitioners. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Webb, W. (1992). Empowering at-risk children. Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, 27, 96-103.