Date of Graduation

7-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Advisor

Kristi Perryman

Committee Member

Samantha Robinson

Second Committee Member

Erin Popejoy

Third Committee Member

Kristin Higgins

Fourth Committee Member

Paul Blisard

Keywords

counseling, mental health literacy, play therapy, psychological services, public perception, utility

Abstract

Children communicate through symbolism and play as toys are children's words and play is their language (Landreth, 2012; Oaklander, 1988; Piaget, 1951; Ray, 2016). Play therapists facilitate developmentally appropriate support for children (Landreth, 2012). Often parents are unaware of the importance of play in children’s counseling (Brumfield & Christensen, 2011; Landreth, Bratton, Kellam, & Blackard, 2006).

Since adults often make decisions for children, it is important to know adults’ perceptions of play therapy utility. There is little research on parents’ knowledge of mental health services especially research specific to play therapy (Gallo, Comer, & Barlow, 2013; O’Connor & Langer, 2018). Literature does support that if parents are knowledgeable about mental health service options, they are more likely to take their children to therapy (e.g., Cunningham et al., 2008), and adults’ mental health literacy improves with information (e.g., Jorm, 2000). A literature review revealed no research specific to play therapy literacy or the general adult public. This dissertation focuses on the adult public’s perception of the utility of play therapy and whether information about play therapy changes perceptions.

Through Amazon Mechanical Turk, 298 participants completed a survey involving a play therapy utility instrument before and after receiving information about play therapy. Prior to receiving information, participants believed play therapy to be useful to very useful. Initially, female participants indicated play therapy was more useful than male participants. The more confidence in their knowledge of play therapy, the more useful the participant viewed play therapy initially. With more play therapy literacy education, the more individuals may value, select, or recommend play therapy. In the present study, participants’ ratings of the utility of play therapy did increase significantly after viewing a brief educational video. The influence of the educational experience appeared to vary by race, education level, and self-reported initial awareness of play therapy. Results suggest White individuals and those who have never heard of play therapy will be most impacted by educational play therapy outreach.

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