Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Committee Member

Katherine Hertlein

Second Committee Member

Brandon Eddy

Third Committee Member

Sara Jordan

Fourth Committee Member

Bradley Donohue

Number of Pages



Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) is an evidence-based approach for mental health treatment with children. CCPT is based on the belief that play is a child’s natural language and so the therapist is required to make inferences of themes through observations of free play; however, there is no standard process by which themes are identified. The purpose of the current study is to gain detailed descriptions of play behavior in order to describe how themes emerge and how they are displayed in child-centered treatment. The themes were then used to describe the progression through the typical stages of child-centered play therapy. We interviewed 10 participants using a protocol adapted from previous research. Participants included therapists who reported the use of child-centered therapy (MFTs, LCSWs, PsyDs, PhDs) and were screened by the researcher to have received sufficient training/education. Thematic analysis was used to identify patterns among the transcripts and a list of themes was developed. A total of six themes emerged from the interviews that provide meaning to patterns of toy selections. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the open codes and three general stages were produced. These stages display a progression through child-centered treatment, which show a child’s tendency to move from disorganized play, to consistent/repetitive play, and lastly to autonomous play with a clear point of conclusion.


Child-Centered Play Therapy; Children; Play Therapy; Toy Selection


Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling | Psychiatric and Mental Health

File Format


File Size

0.588 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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