By Bethany J. Townsend, Ph.D., Lindsay Ishman, Lisa Dion & Kara L. Carnes-Holt

Abstract: Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) and Synergetic Play Therapy (SPT) are theories used in the counseling profession to promote healing in child clients. Whereas CCPT has a long-standing history, SPT is relatively new to the field and incorporates ideas from many sources including CCPT, Gestalt Play Therapy, Experiential Play Therapy, attachment theory, and Interpersonal Neurobiology. In this paper, we compare and contrast the philosophies and goals of both models as well as the convergence and divergence in protocols related to treatment progression, toys, limit-setting, and therapeutic statements. The importance of the relationship and the role of the therapist are also explored. This paper concludes with a hypothetical case scenario to further highlight the similarities and differences between CCPT and SPT therapists in action.

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Note: This is an Author’s Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Child and Adolescent Counseling on 30 Aug 2021 and also available online for purchase at