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Book Reviews Edited By Merryl Bushansky

Book Review: A Cookbook for Play Therapy

Reviewed By Deana Caldwell

Volume 44 Issue 2

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Child Centered Play Therapy Workbook
By J. A. Mullen & J. M. Rickli
2014, Research Press

Reviewed By Deana Caldwell

While receiving training for a variety of therapy modalities in graduate school, therapists often have one or more with which they feel most comfortable, often determined by personality of the therapist, time constraints, and effectiveness. This workbook is a nice reference or go-to manual for a newly practicing school psychologist as well the veteran. Chock full of ideas, how-tos, and dos & don'ts, I do not believe anyone would walk away from this book feeling disappointed.

The authors begin with asking the reader to do some self-reflection, as the best therapists are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. In the form of a recipe, the reader is asked to see what they need to be a successful play therapist. I initially thought this “recipe for play therapy” a bit corny, but when finished, I realized the authors were using play therapy with the reader to help them quantify not only the physical constructs needed to be successful (e.g., a gallon of toys, a flat of floor in a quiet room), but also the intrapersonal characteristics that will be needed to be successful (2 cups of patience and a quart of listening.) As a school psychologist, I tend to be more behavioral or solution- focused, but for me, the activity built awareness of things to monitor for effectiveness. Less talking, more listening.

The workbook provides exercises to practice reflection skills. Therapists skilled at being empathic need to remember that being able to reflect empathy back to the child using developmentally appropriate vocabulary will be important. This flowed into the Eight Basic Principles of Child Centered Play therapy and the concept of childhood culture.

From there, the authors delve into the nuts and bolts of a well planned therapy session. They explain basic skills and guidelines to use in therapy as well as examples of specific toys to include in your storehouse. The authors provided ample opportunity for the reader to practice tracking of the child's behaviors during the session and a rationale for its importance to the process. The authors provide clear guidance on appropriate therapist responses to various child behavior and ways to set limits during sessions. Again, the authors address the issue of “know thyself” when determining limits for sessions as an important component for full acceptance of the child

The cookbook version of a play therapy session was well laid out for the reader to use as a reference guide for sessions (a nice structural framework for any therapist). This chapter provided definitions and theory surrounding the themes that may emerge in a child's play. Threaded throughout the book is the sentiment that a critical attitude for a play therapist is “a state of being, not doing.” That said, the cookbook version provided a nice framework for the behaviorist in me to conceptualize the session. The authors then address the concept and significance of “firsts” in play therapy sessions, the stages included in the duration of play therapy, and finally, when to terminate the therapy.

The workbook concludes with problems, and possible remedies, common to play therapy, such as “What if the child will not talk?” A checklist is included to assist the therapist with quality indicators essential to effective play therapy coupled with a rating scale for the level of implementation for each strategy.


Deana Caldwell, PsyD, NCSP, has been a practicing school psychologist for 20 years. She is president of the Kentucky Association for Psychology in the Schools and is also affiliated with Teva-Neuroscience as a patient advocate for persons with multiple sclerosis