Benefits of Play Therapy Explored in American Journal of Play

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 585-263-2700

October 22, 2015

For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Kim Della Porta, 585-410-6325,

Benefits of Play Therapy Explored in
Interview in the
American Journal of Play®

ROCHESTER, NY—Play is life-sustaining and inherently therapeutic according to an interview with Phyllis Booth, Clinical Director Emeritus of the Theraplay Institute in Evanston, Illinois, in the latest issue of The Strong’s American Journal of Play. The interview explores advances in the theory and practice of play therapy, as well as Booth’s experiences during her more than 50-year career.

Booth first encountered play therapy working at Head Start in Chicago in the early 1960s, and she says she and her peers saw immediate results after playing with children in need of help. She says, “Sad, withdrawn children became livelier and more outgoing, and angry, aggressive, acting-out children calmed down and were able to engage with others in a friendly, cooperative way.”

Booth and colleagues adapted their play therapy to bring the child and parents together. She says that the result—Theraplay—puts the focus on healing the relationship, not fixing the child. Unlike some other forms of play therapy, Theraplay focuses on the non-verbal aspects of the interaction between child and parents, such as eye contact, rhythm, and synchrony. Booth says that this approach works particularly well with adopted children who need help forming attachment to their new parents. It also helps to show the adults ways to be more “responsive, attuned, empathic, and reflective.”

Booth believes that play therapy proves so effective at achieving results in children’s attitudes and behaviors because, “…by inviting them to play, we signal that we will be accepting, that they will be safe, and that they can open up.” Advances in brain science continue to allow play therapists to target their activities to meet children’s needs. While the therapy is often aimed at children, Booth says that she has seen similar results with seniors, as well.

Booth says, “Play makes us feel good about ourselves and good about others. What more should we expect from therapy?”

Additional articles in Vol. 8, No. 1 of the American Journal of Play include:

 “Pigs, Planes, and Play-Doh: Children’s Perspectives on Play as Revealed through Their Drawings,” by Pauline Agnieszka Duncan, post-doctoral fellow in the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. Agnieszka Duncan explores drawing as a method for learning how young children think about and conceptualize play. Her work suggests that children look at play more as an experience and not as a set activity. 

“Play as Experience,” by Thomas Henricks, distinguished university professor at Elon University. Henricks explores the connection between play and experience. He sets the quality of the experience in relation to the five ways of viewing play—as action, interaction, activity, disposition, and within a context—and provides a significant contribution to play theory. He argues that all of the approaches need to be integrated for a greater understanding of how play functions.

“Worlding through Play: Alternate Reality Games, Large-Scale Learning, and The Source,” by Patrick Jagoda, assistant professor at the University of Chicago and cofounder of the Game Changer Design Lab; Melissa Gilliam, professor at the University of Chicago; Peter McDonald, doctoral student at the University of Chicago; and Christopher Russell, doctoral student at Northwestern University. The authors explore the idea of gamification—the use of game mechanics in nongame activities—through a case study based on an alternate reality game (ARG) that they created. They argue that ARGs facilitate learning with their semifictional and immersive play.    

“Psychological Approaches to the Study of Play,” by Doris Bergen, professor and Interim Chair for the Department of Educational Psychology at Miami University. Bergen surveys the research on the psychological approach to play and notes the most common methods of psychologist researchers, which include standard experimental methods, direct observations, interviews, and other qualitative activities. Bergen also surveys researchers from other disciplines and argues that they, too, have contributed to a psychological understanding of the thinking and behavior related to play.

The complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at Printed editions are also available for subscription and singly copy purchase.

About the American Journal of Play
The Strong’s American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.