A developmental unit featuring play media for disruptive fourth and fifth grade students


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A developmental unit featuring play media for disruptive fourth and fifth grade students
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viii, 196 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Flax, Jo-Anne, 1950-
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Counselor Education thesis, Ph.D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Counselor Education -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1998.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 173-195).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jo-Anne Flax.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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aleph - 029225908
oclc - 39546783
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Doctoral degrees do not just happen! I could not have completed this

dissertation and subsequent degree without the assistance and support of

many special people. First, I would like to thank my friends who stood by

me and never lost confidence in my abilities. Second, my colleagues, who

were too polite to say nol Third, the peer facilitators, administrators, and

teachers who so willingly took part in the study have my sincere

appreciation. My family also deserves special recognition for their long

distance support of my work. Further, I would like to thank my committee

members at the University of Florida who were giving of their time in helping

me complete the process. In particular, I would like to thank my committee

chair, Bob Myrick, who has been a wonderful mentor and role model. His

patience, support, and expertise helped make this a true learning experience.

Finally, I would like to formally acknowledge some things I have

learned while pursuing this degree that are very important to me: you can't

live your life from under a rock, you really do get just one chance at life, and

windows are made to be opened. To those special people who have helped

me learn these things, you have my appreciation and love.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS----------------------------------------- ii

ABSTRACT------------------------------ ----- -------------------------- vi


1 INTRODUCTION------------------------------------------------------- 1

Purpose of the Study--------------------------------- -- 3
Research Questions---------------------------- ------------------ 4
Statement of the Problem----------------------------- ------------ 5
Need for the Study--------------------------------- --------------- 8
Theoretical Bases for the Study-------------------------------------- 11
Developmental Guidance and Counseling------------------------- 11
Play Counseling------------------------------------------------- 14
Peer Facilitators----------------------------- ------------- 17
Definition of Terms-------------------------------- ----------------- 19
Organization of the Study----------------------------- ----------- 21

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE------------- ----------------- 23

Disruptive Children------------------ -------------- ---- ------24
Developmental Guidance and Counseling------------------------------ 39
The Developmental Model of Guidance and Counseling ------- 39
Developmental Play Counseling--------------------------------- 44
Play------------------------------ --- ------------------------- 47
Play Defined--------------------- --------------- 47
Rationale for Children's Play------------------------------------ 48
Theories of Play Counseling---------------- ----------------- 52
Psychoanalytic play therapy---------------------------------- 53
Active play therapy------- --- ----------- ------ 55
Release play therapy------------------ -------------------- 55
Structured play therapy--------------- ----------------- 56
Relationship play therapy--------------------------------- 56
Non-directive play therapy------- ----------- ------ 57

Therapeutic Uses of Play---------- ------------------- 64
Play Therapy --------------------- -------------- 70
Play therapy as an intervention----------------------- -- 71
Play therapy and play counseling------- ----------------- 74
Play Counseling in the Elementary School------------------- 76
Play media----------------------------------- 79
Structured counseling ------------------------------ 82
Peer Facilitators-------------------------------------------------- 83
Summary--------------------------.......-------------------------- 90

3 METHODS AND PROCEDURES-------------------------------------- 91

Population and Sample----------------------------------- ---------- 92
Population-------------- --------------------92
Sample--------------------------------------------------- 93
Research Design------ ----------------------------------------- 95
Hypotheses--------------------------------------------------- 96
Analyses of Data------------------------------------------- 97
Independent Variable---------------------------- --------------- 98
The Developmental Unit----------------------------------------- 98
Unit Leadership and Leader Training------------------------------ 104
Dependent Variables------------------------------------- -------106
Acting-Out Behavior---------------------------- ---------- 107
Peer Relationships------------------------ ---------- -------107
Self-Concept--------------------------------------------------- 108
Student Classroom Behavior---------------------------------- 109
Instrumentation----------------------------------------------------- 109
Walker Problem Behavior Identification Checklist (WPBIC)----- 110
Reliability of the Walker Problem Behavior Identification
Checklist---------------------------- ------------------112
Validity of the Walker Problem Behavior Identification
Checklist---------------------------- ------------------113
Student Self-Concept Scale (SSCS)-------------------------------- 115
Reliability of the Student Self-Concept Scale--------------- 118
Validity of the Student Self-Concept Scale-------------- 119
Disruptive Behavior Rating Scale---------------------------------- 124
Summary----------------------------------------- ------------------ 125

4 RESEARCH FINDINGS------------------------- ------------------- 126

Acting-Out Behavior-------------------------------- ------------ 127
Disturbed Peer Relationships------------------------------- -----130
Self-Concept-------------------------------------------------------- 133
Classroom Behavior--------------------------- ------------- 136

RECOMMENDATIONS---------------------------------------------- 142

Conclusions--------------------------------------------------------- 146
Limitations------------------------------------------------------------ 146
Implications and Recommendations----------------- ----------- 147



B CORRELATION TABLE------------------------------------------------- 172

REFERENCES------------------------------ -------- ------------------- 173

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH------------------------ ----------- ----- ------196

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
Of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Jo-anne Flax

May 1998

Chairman: Robert Myrick, Ph.D.
Major Department: Counselor Education

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a

developmental guidance unit featuring play media on disruptive elementary

school students. More specifically, the study focused on the use of play

counseling strategies with fourth and fifth grade groups of children who

were identified as having disruptive classroom behaviors. The impact of the

unit on the children participating was examined in terms of students' acting-

out behavior, peer-relationships, self-concepts, and classroom behaviors.

The investigation involved three experimental groups: 1) a counselor-led play

group; 2) a peer facilitator-led play group; and 3) a control group which

received no planned interventions.

The study was conducted using a pretest-posttest control-group

design. Sixty-three students completed the Student Self-Concept Scale and

the Disruptive Behavior Rating Scale. The teachers of these students

completed the DBRS and the Walker Problem Behavior Identification

Checklist. Analyses of covariance were conducted for the dependent

variables of acting-out behavior, peer relationships, self-concept, and

classroom behavior using SPSS for Windows, 7.0. Further, gender

differences and group leadership were examined in terms of these variables.

The results of this study showed no statistically significant differences

among experimental and control groups for acting-out behavior, self-concept,

or classroom behavior in regard to group leadership or grade level. Peer

relationships was found to have a statistically significant difference between

grade levels. On post-test, students in Grade 5 scored significantly lower,

indicating better peer relationships, than students in Grade 4.


The behavior of disruptive students is a serious problem in public

schools. Disruptive pupils make the teaching process more difficult for

teachers and negatively affect the learning environment for all students.

Lessons are interrupted while the teacher deals with inappropriate behavior.

A feeling of tension may occur in the classroom making learning difficult.

Students who are disruptive in school exhibit poor self-control and

frequently act-out. It is not unusual for disruptive children to engage in

destructive acts toward others or things in their environment. Aggressive

actions, both verbal and physical, are often part of disruptive children's

behavior. Further, they are frequently noncompliant and defy teacher


Children who are disruptive are often ineffective learners who tend to

have poor relationships with both peers and teachers. Not surprisingly,

disruptive children may comment that no one likes them or they may be

hypercritical of themselves and others. Further, they may be left out of

group activities and may be rejected by their peers.

Teachers are concerned about these children and often refer them to

administrators, counselors, or for special placement. What is the best way

to help these children? What counseling approaches might be used?

Steve is a fourth grade student who hits other children with no

apparent provocation. He is frequently out of his seat in the classroom and

does not comply with his teacher's directions. Reading, arithmetic, and

other academic subjects are difficult for him. He blurts out answers and

often teases other children in the classroom and on the playground. No one

has been able to find an effective way to help Steve control himself.

Jennifer, a fifth grade student, pouts when things don't go her way

and loses her temper easily. She frequently argues with her teacher and

other children. She rarely completes a reading or arithmetic assignment and

often destroys the work she does. Jennifer blames other children for her

mistakes and lashes out at them in an angry way. Her classmates leave her

out of free-time activities. The teacher is concerned about Jennifer's

behavior and the impact it is having on other students.

Steve and Jennifer might be sent to the school principal, who would

probably talk briefly with them. Some principals lecture, reprimand, or even

threaten such children as they talk about how behavior must change. A

parent-teacher conference might be arranged. Or the children could be

referred to a school counselor who might also talk with them about their

classroom behaviors, their consequences and possible alternatives.

Counseling may focus on topics such as teacher and peer relationships, self-

concept and self-control (Mordock, 1991; Ohlsen, 1983).

Many methods have been used to help disruptive children adapt to

their school settings. Behavioral and cognitive interventions have provided

beneficial results when used on an individual and group basis. Parent

training has also been effective. In the school setting, counselors are

looking for short-term interventions that are effective in helping the child

learn more effectively with a minimal loss of classroom instructional time.

Therefore, there is a need for innovative short-term ways to work with

disruptive students.

One promising strategy is the use of play media, which helps a

counselor enter the child's world and develop an effective working

relationship. Given that Axline (1947, 1967) and more recently, Landreth

(1991) have referred to play as the natural language of children, it is

surprising that this treatment modality has not received more attention with

young children. It could be a welcome addition to the "tool box" of the

elementary school counselor.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a

developmental guidance unit featuring play media upon disruptive

elementary school students. More specifically, this study focused on the

use of play counseling strategies with fourth and fifth grade groups of

children who were identified as exhibiting disruptive classroom behaviors.

The impact of the unit on the children participating was examined in terms

of students' acting-out behavior, peer relationships, self-concepts, and

classroom behaviors. Further, the impact of the unit in relation to peer and

adult led activities was examined.

Research Questions

The following research questions were examined:

1. Does participation in a developmental guidance unit featuring play media

have a significant effect upon the acting-out behaviors of disruptive

elementary school students?

2. Does participation in the unit have an effect upon the peer relationships

of the disruptive students?

3. Does participation in the unit have an effect upon the self-concepts of

the disruptive students?

4. Does participation in the unit have an effect upon the classroom

behaviors of the disruptive students?

5. Does participation in the unit affect girls and boys differently?

6. Is there a difference between the effects of the unit when the unit is led

by an adult or peer?

Statement of the Problem

The impact of disruptive children in the elementary classroom has

been well documented in the professional literature. Out of seat behavior,

aggressive behavior toward peers and adults, destruction of property,

speaking out of turn, and refusal to follow the directions of the teacher are

among the disruptive behaviors which may be observed in elementary

school classrooms. Aggressive behavior, in particular, has been positively

correlated with inadequate school adjustment and low academic

performance (Coopersmith, 1959; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995;

Wittmer & Myrick, 1980). Disruptive behavior interferes with teaching and

learning (Gaustad, 1992; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996; Nelson,

Dykeman, Powell, & Petty, 1996). When a teacher must deal with frequent

disruptions, it is difficult for learning to take place. Further, the stress

placed on the teacher in these situations may have a negative influence on

the rapport with children and thereby affect the learning process (Brembeck,

1962; Ginott, 1972; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996).

Non-disruptive students are also influenced by the inappropriate

behavior of the disruptive child (Baker, 1985; Brake & Gerler, Jr., 1994;

DuPaul & Stoner, 1994; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996). Bleck and

Bleck (1982) reported that "students who watch outbursts of aggression

and teacher-student conflicts may find themselves distracted, frightened,

intimidated, or unwillingly involved. Thus their learning is impaired" (p.138).

Students exhibiting disruptive behavior in the schools not only pose

problems for the teacher and other children in the school setting, but if not

dealt with in an effective manner, the disruptive child is at risk of rejection

by peers (Asher, Parkhurst, Hymel, & Williams, 1990; Bleck & Bleck, 1982;

Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990; Coie & Koeppel, 1990; DuPaul & Stoner,

1994; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996; Jewett, 1992) and escalating

behavioral symptoms (Dodge, 1989; DuPaul & Stoner, 1994; Griffin, 1987;

Jones, Sheridan, & Binns, 1983; Major, 1990; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey,

1995). Of further concern is the impact that the disruptive behavior has on

the emotional development of the child. Some forms of disruptive behavior

indicate early disturbances in social competence and interpersonal skills

which may indicate serious emotional and behavioral problems (Zahn-

Waxler, Cole, Richardson, Friedman, Michel, & Belouad, 1994).

At a time when self-concepts are being formed, the school experience

is a significant factor. A positive school experience is an important factor in

the development of a positive self-concept. Holly (1992) noted that children

with a high sense of self-esteem tend to do better in school. Disruptive

children encounter more negative forms of discipline than praise and

encouragement making a positive experience unlikely. Steps are needed to

reduce the negative behaviors and allow children to learn in an encouraging


Students with behavioral problems are considered by many in the field

of education to be at a high risk for not completing high school (Hovland,

Smaby, & Maddux, 1996; Perez-Selles & Hergert, 1989; Webb, 1992;

Weinberg & Weinberg, 1992). Further, children who demonstrate social

difficulties experience both short and long term consequences which appear

to be precursors of more serious problems in adolescence and adulthood

(Jones, Sheridan, & Binns, 1983).

In a poll conducted by Elam, Rose, & Gallup (1994), educators

identified lack of student discipline as being a primary concern in the

schools. Comer, Haynes, Hamilton-Lee, and Boger (1988) reported that

when teachers are asked about the major problems they encounter in the

schools, lack of discipline is included. Further, Safran and Safran (1985)

referred to disruptive student behavior as among the most pressing

problems in elementary schools today. Thompson, White, and Morgan

(1982) point to the disproportionate amount of time taken from classroom

instruction to deal with disruptive behavior.

Among teachers, aggressive student behavior consistently is ranked

as one of the most objectionable forms of disruptive student behavior (Hersh

& Walker, 1983; Nelson, Dykeman, Powell, & Petty, 1996; Walker, 1986).

Hoover and Hazier (1991) found that teachers in elementary and middle

school grades regularly identify approximately twelve percent of students as

disruptive to others in a physical or psychological way. Teachers frequently

turn to the school counselor for help in dealing with disruptive children.

Play counseling has been found to be a successful intervention with

disruptive children in the elementary school (Bleck & Bleck, 1982). Time for

counseling is limited in the schools. Developmental guidance units using

play media within a limited time frame have not received much attention.

Effective interventions that can be quickly implemented in the elementary

school setting need to be identified and empirically tested.

Need for the Study

Disruptive behavior is a visible and pressing problem in American

schools, posing a significant risk to school safety and order (Short &

Shapiro, 1993b). Children exhibiting disruptive behaviors can inflict both

physical harm and verbal abuse on those around them, and have a negative

effect on the education of their classmates. These children divert teachers

from their teaching tasks and cause them to spend considerable time in

behavioral management (Cotton, 1990; Gemmer, Harris, & Wyckoff, 1989).

Disruptive behaviors include such actions as aggression toward others

(i.e., hitting, shoving, and kicking), loss of temper, arguing and defiance of

authority, talking out in class, and using inappropriate language. If these

behaviors are not controlled, a significant loss of teaching time may occur.

Thompson, White, and Morgan (1982) referred to the disproportionate

amount of time taken by the teacher to deal with the disruptive behavior of

students in the classroom. This impacts not only the disruptive children, but

classmates as well. Cotton (1990) noted that approximately half of all

available classroom time is taken up with activities other than instruction

and that discipline problems take up most of this time.

Several interventions have been effective in modifying the disruptive

behavior of elementary children. For example, Amatea (1989) used a family

systems approach and suggested that working with the child through a

series of family-school consultations could be helpful. Shields and Green

(1996) advocated the conceptualization of the classroom as a system

without the involvement of families. Training students in social skills has

been used many times (Dodge, 1989). Techniques such as coaching,

modeling, behavioral rehearsal, feedback, and reinforcement have yielded

positive results (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). The utilization of play as

a counseling technique focusing on disruptive behavior has been described

as a possibility (Bleck & Bleck, 1982), but not extensively researched.

Several reports have appeared in the counseling literature which

utilize a developmental counseling approach to working with elementary

school children. For example, Bleck & Bleck (1982) found positive effects in

altering the attitudes and increasing the self-esteem of disruptive third grade

children. Campbell (1990) described a successful group for low-performing

students stressing motivation. A developmental unit was utilized by Myrick,

Merhill, and Swanson (1986) to improve attitudes and behaviors of fourth

grade children. Developmental guidance and counseling units appear to be

effective in working with disruptive students, but more research is needed.

In addition, the integration of play counseling techniques might provide a

missing ingredient that helps students learn more effective social and

learning skills at school.

The necessity for effective interventions which can be implemented to

reduce the disruptive behavior of elementary school children has been well

documented (Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996; Walker, Colvin, &

Ramsey, 1995). However, there is a lack of empirically based research

dealing with time-limited developmental play interventions. Disruptive

students need time-efficient help to gain control of their behaviors in order

to improve learning efficiency. Further, the teachers of these students need

help in order to maintain positive classroom atmosphere which encourages

learning for all students.

Play therapy and play counseling techniques have been recognized as

effective interventions in the treatment of many childhood problems.

Landreth (1991) identified fourteen problem behaviors in which a play

intervention is effective in eliminating or at least diminishing significant

problems in children. However, there has been little empirically based

research regarding the use of a developmental guidance unit using play

media for the correction of disruptive behavior exhibited by elementary

school children.

Theoretical Bases for the Study

Developmental Guidance and Counseling

Developmental guidance and counseling during the school years

attempts to identify the basic skills, interpersonal understandings, and

experiences children need to be successful in school and in later life.

Students are given the opportunity to learn about themselves and others

before problems arise in their lives. If a crisis should occur, then the

children will have a basis of knowledge and experience from which to draw

to resolve the problem for themselves. In this way, a developmental

approach enables students to learn effectively and efficiently within a

learning climate that fosters academic and personal growth (ASCA, 1990).

Developmental counseling focuses on the goals of self-understanding

and self-awareness leading to self-acceptance (Dinkmeyer, 1966).

Therefore, the self-concept is an important part of developmental guidance

and counseling. It appears that significant attitudes about self, others,

school, and society, which affect how a person learns and later functions as

a mature adult, are formed while young people are growing. According to

Myrick (1993), as the self-concept develops, the attitudes and personal

styles of the individual form, which in turn, become an important part of the

learning process. It is clear that the movement through developmental tasks

and stages depends greatly on the self-concept, and the self-concept, in

turn, has a great deal of influence on interpersonal relationships as well as

learning. To illustrate this, Nave (1990) found that self-concept is more

closely associated with student success than the IQ. Clearly, the self-

concept plays an important role in the development of the child.

There are a number of defining principles of developmental guidance.

First and foremost is the concept that human development is a life-long

process which involves physiological, psychological, and social elements

which begins at birth and continues until death. Second, this process of

development involves an interaction between what a person inherits

genetically at birth and the different environments in which that person lives

and grows (Myrick, 1993). Inherited potential can be nourished or stifled

depending on such factors as the type, amount, quality, and timing of

experiences (Paisley & Peace, 1995). Behavior, then, is a result of multiple

causes. Actions are seen as the result of the individual's unique interaction

between heredity, environment, and time.

Developmental counseling recognizes that behavior, as well as the

child, is dynamic and continually in the process of becoming (Dinkmeyer &

Muro, 1977). The developmental counselor works from an awareness that

as the child moves through developmental stages, behavior that may be

problematic may also be predictable in terms of a particular stage of

development. The role of the counselor is to help the child become more

aware of the behavior chosen to meet the needs of the situation. A basic

premise of developmental counseling is that self-awareness is essential

before self-management can occur (Dinkmeyer & Muro, 1977). Once the

child is aware of the alternatives involved in a situation, self-acceptance is

increased leading to a stronger self-concept. According to Dinkmeyer and

Muro (1977), "the goal of developmental counseling is the facilitation of

human effectiveness" (p.61). This includes knowing oneself, as well as

one's strengths and weaknesses, having a sense of personal worth and self-

confidence, having the ability to meet the tasks of life realistically and

successfully, being responsible for choices and actions, and understanding

one's own feelings and actions.

According to Wittmer (1993), a developmental program, by design,

focuses on the needs, interests, and issues related to the various stages of

students' developmental growth. Typical developmental concerns in the

school setting would include peer relationships, getting along better with

parents and siblings, making new friends, and dealing with feelings

(Dinkmeyer & Muro, 1977). Myrick (1993) identified eight goals which

characterize almost all developmental guidance and counseling programs

including understanding the school environment, understanding self and

others, understanding attitudes and behavior, decision making and problem

solving, interpersonal and communication skills, and school success skills.

Developmental counseling in the schools is aimed at making a

difference for the children and the school in general. Promoting the ability

of children to build such skills as effective problem solving, moral decision

making, and satisfying interpersonal relationships with peers and adults is of

greatest importance. The developmental model allows for learning to take

place at the most appropriate time in children's lives. Further, the

opportunity to continue learning is considered fundamental to this approach.

Play Counseling

The use of play in a counseling relationship can be traced back to

Hermine Hug-Hellmuth in 1921 when she reported that play was essential in

child analysis and therapy with children seven years of age or younger

(Gumaer, 1984). In the 1920s, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein utilized

aspects of play in their therapeutic work. Later, in the 1930s, the use of

play approaches was separated into active play therapy, where play of the

children was structured by the therapist via selected toys and scenarios,

and passive play therapy, where the play was unrestricted. In passive

therapy, the acceptance of emotional expression was emphasized. Children

were free to play at their own pace and deal with issues they selected.

Otto Rank modified play therapy in an important way. He believed

that the emotional attachment that developed between the child and the

therapist provided the curative power rather than the interpretation of play.

Following the work of Otto Rank, Carl Rogers' non-directive interventions

emerged. In this approach, the therapist makes no attempt to control or

direct the therapy; rather, the focus was on creating a therapeutic

relationship which enabled clients to solve their own problems. The

emphasis was on the client's capacity to move toward self-growth.

Virginia Axline was a student of Carl Rogers at the University of

Chicago. She incorporated Rogers' therapeutic philosophy into the area of

play therapy. Axline (1947) included some limitations and direction to her

work with children, but only for purposes of physical and emotional safety.

Children were prevented from harming themselves, the therapist, or

destroying property. These limitations established boundaries which

provided a feeling of security and stability necessary for a therapeutic

relationship (Gumaer, 1984). Axline's approach, which stressed play as the

natural vehicle of expression for the child, is arguably the purest form of

play therapy counselors have at their disposal. Her non-directive approach

and commitment to following the lead of the child has been accepted as an

effective, if time consuming intervention.

Play has been an effective means of establishing a therapeutic

relationship; it reduces anxiety, encourages expression of feelings, serves as

a diagnostic tool, and provides opportunities for socialization (Landreth,

1991). Play allows children to practice new roles, express emotion, try to

make sense of experiences, and deal with reality and fantasy (Knell, 1993).

It is clearly an activity in which children willingly engage and feel

comfortable. It is a natural means of communication which, if utilized in

therapeutic situations, can help children develop the necessary self-

confidence to learn and try out new behaviors (Gumaer, 1984).

One of the most natural and direct ways for a child to express

feelings is through play (Gladding, 1993). Ginott (1961) referred to play as

the talk of the child and toys as the words. Through the use of play media,

the counselor enters the child's world of feelings and ideas and fosters a

helping relationship with a young child (Myrick & Haldin, 1971). The use of

play media such as puppets and dolls, clay, games, and music serves to

facilitate both the child's imagination as well as emotional expression. The

play serves as a point from which the counselor can make the leap from

make-believe to real life.

Various play media have been used with children in the school setting

both individually and in groups. Art has been one of the most commonly

used approaches in the school setting (Bertoia & Allan, 1988; Denny, 1969;

Nystul, 1980; Rubin, 1988; Thompson & Allan, 1987). Puppets and dolls

have also played a major role in working with young children in schools

(Carter, 1987; Current, 1985; Muro, 1983; Palumbo, 1989; Pope, Edel, &

Lane, 1974; Woltmann, 1967). Woltman stressed that children relate to,

identify with, and ultimately work through feelings using puppets (Knell,

1993). Other play media which have been effective include drama, games,

guided imagery, music and movement, and storytelling. Landreth, Homeyer,

and Bratton (1993) offer a bibliography of more than seventy articles

describing the use of play media in the elementary school alone dating back

to 1940.

A trend in treatment of children has been the use of short-term

interventions. Once considered superficial and useful as a temporary

intervention until long-term treatment could begin, brief therapy is now

viewed more positively, often as the treatment of choice (Knell, 1993).

There is growing evidence that brief therapy can be as productive as long-

term treatment (Welter, 1982). Brief therapy typically involves fewer

sessions than its prolonged cousin, with an increased emphasis on the

presenting problems. Short-term interventions focus on specific problem

resolutions rather than more global interventions (Knell, 1993).

In the schools, brief counseling approaches can be a time-effective

vehicle for helping children in individual and group settings. Harrison (1993)

stated that brief approaches can be implemented with developmental,

preventative, and crisis situations thus making them ideal for the school

setting. Brief counseling tends to be action-oriented and geared towards

problem solving. They are logical, structured and usually progress in a step-

by-step manner.

Peer Facilitators

Myrick and Bowman (1981b) defined a peer facilitator as a student

who uses helping skills and concepts to assist other students and

sometimes adults to think about ideas and feelings, to explore alternatives

to situations, and to make responsible decisions. This concept is not a new

one, but can be traced back to the one-room schoolhouses of the 1930s

where the older, more skilled students helped the younger, less

accomplished students (Campbell, 1993).

In the 1960s, the idea of peer helper programs became very popular,

partly as a result of the increasing problem of drug abuse. Counselors, as

well as others in education searched for ways to reach students before they

developed problems with drug addiction. Surveys indicated that students

with problems turned to their peers, then counselors and coaches

(Campbell, 1993; Myrick & Folk, 1991). This finding served as a push for

peer helper programs which flourished at this time, especially at the high

school level. As the variety of peer helping groups expanded, high school

peer facilitators were trained to lead preventive guidance groups with

elementary students.

Four basic peer facilitator roles have been identified (Myrick &

Bowman, 1981b). The use of peers as student assistants commonly finds

students helping counselors, teachers, or administrators with various

structured tasks including answering telephones, taking and delivering

messages, and operating media equipment. A second role of peer

facilitators is that of a tutor. Cross-age tutoring, utilized by educators for

many years, becomes more than academic review when the trained, peer

facilitator-tutor can address motivation, interest, learning barriers, and self-

esteem. A special friend can provide encouragement, support, and perhaps

serve as a mentor to new students or students who have no friends.

Finally, a fourth role of peer facilitators is that of small group leaders. Their

role is to provide more personalized experiences for students and to increase

the productivity of the group (Myrick & Folk, 1991).

Since the 1970s, hundreds of articles have appeared in the literature

describing successful programs and substantiating the effectiveness of peer

programs aimed at reducing the school drop-out rate as well as increasing

appropriate school behaviors and positive attitudes toward school

(Campbell, 1993). For example, Mathur and Rutherford (1991b) conducted

a review of the literature dealing with peer interventions in promoting social

skills of children and adolescents with behavioral disorders. Their results

indicated that peer-mediated interventions were successful in reducing

behavioral problems. A study conducted by Fouts (1985) demonstrated the

effectiveness of eighth grade facilitators with sixth graders' self-concept and

attitude toward school. Similarly, fifth grade peer facilitators successfully

worked with disruptive students in the second and third grade to increase

desired classroom behavior (Bowman & Myrick, 1987). Peer facilitators

have become accepted as an important part of a developmental counseling

program. Clearly, a peer facilitator program can be a powerful counselor

intervention (Myrick, 1993).

Definition of Terms

Acting-Out Behavior: Acting-out behavior is behavior which is described as

inappropriate such as arguing with those in authority, defiance of

instructions, and temper tantrums. Acting-out behavior includes physical

aggression toward objects or others.

Developmental Guidance: Developmental guidance is an approach to

guidance and counseling that identifies the basic skills, understandings, and

experiences that children need to be successful and implements individual,

small group, and classroom activities to facilitate personal, social, and

academic growth.

Developmental Guidance Unit: A developmental guidance unit consists of a

series of counseling interventions that are organized into a sequential set of

sessions having specific objectives, materials, recommended activities, and

discussion leads. The focus is typically on general concerns or an indirect

approach to a problem situation.

Disruptive Behavior: Disruptive behavior is any inappropriate behavior which

disrupts the learning environment in the classroom (e.g. calling out, teasing

other children, verbal abuse toward others, throwing objects, disturbing

others during their work or seat time) and interrupts normal classroom


Disturbed Peer Relationships: For the purposes of this study, those

behaviors which indicate a child's inability to get along well with others

such as lack of friendships, avoidance of activity with classmates, and

expression of loneliness or unhappiness, constitute disturbed peer

relationships. Children with disturbed peer relationships may be seen as

having a low self-concept.

Peer Facilitator: A peer facilitator is a student who uses helping skills and

concepts to assist other students and sometimes adults to think about ideas

and feelings, to explore alternatives to situations, and to make responsible

decisions (Myrick & Bowman, 1981b).

Play Media: Play media consists of materials utilized in the play process

such as clay, puppets and dolls, music, drama, and games to facilitate

imagination, elicit emotional expression, and learn interpersonal and

behavioral skills.

Self-Concept: The self-concept is defined as the totality of a complex,

organized, and dynamic system of learned beliefs, attitudes, and opinions

that each person holds to be true about his or her personal existence

(Purkey, 1992).

Organization of the Study

The related literature in the areas of disruptive children and the

treatment of their behavioral symptoms, developmental guidance, play

counseling, and the use of peer facilitators will be addressed in Chapter II.

The population and sample for the study, independent and dependent

variables, the various instrumentation utilized, research design, hypotheses,

participant training, the structured, developmental play unit, data analysis, a

review of methodological limitations and an implementation schedule are

outlined in Chapter III. The results of the study will be


reported in Chapter IV. Chapter V will contain a summary of the results of

the study and an analysis of these results including limitations and

suggestions for future investigation.


This study focused on the use of play counseling strategies with

elementary school children who were identified as having disruptive

classroom behaviors. It involved experimental groups and examined the

effects of a developmental guidance unit featuring play media that was

counselor-led and peer facilitator-led. Structured play formed a significant

part of the activities in the unit.

A review of the professional literature is presented in this chapter. A

description of disruptive children, the impact and consequences of

disruptive behavior upon learning and development, possible causes of the

behavior, and previous attempts to deal with these children will receive

attention. The history and theories of play counseling, the therapeutic uses

of play in counseling, and a review of the previous use of play with

elementary children, and in particular, disruptive children will be examined.

Further, the use of a developmental model of guidance including peer

facilitator programs will be explored.

Disruptive Children

Disruptive student behavior is one of the most serious, ongoing

problems in public schools (Nelson, Dykeman, Powell, & Petty, 1996; Safran

& Safran, 1985; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Disruptive behaviors

include verbal or physical aggression toward others or objects, teasing of

other children, and disturbing others with vocal outbursts at inappropriate

times. When teachers are asked about the major problems they encounter

in school, discipline problems and disruptive behavior are included among

their concerns (Brake & Gerler, Jr., 1994; Comer, 1988; Elam, Rose, &

Gallup, 1994; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996) and is becoming an

increasing priority (Benshoff, Poidevant, & Cashwell, 1994). A significant

proportion of discipline problems arise from disruptive pupils in the

classroom creating difficult teaching conditions for teachers and frustration

and tension for students (Gaustad, 1992; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux,

1996). An estimated twelve percent of elementary and middle school

children have been identified as disrupting others in a physical or

psychological way in the school setting (Hoover & Hazier, 1991).

Classroom behavior is an important factor in determining whether or

not children will experience academic success (Gerler, 1994). Further, the

behavior of disruptive children in the classroom may play a negative role in

the learning of others (Baker, 1985; Brake & Gerler, Jr., 1994; DuPaul &

Stoner, 1994; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996; Nelson, Dykeman,

Powell, & Petty, 1996). Students who witness the inappropriate behavior of

disruptive pupils and the ensuing teacher-student conflict may feel

distracted, frightened, or intimidated (Bleck & Bleck, 1982).

Inattentive and disruptive students present significant challenges to

school personnel (DuPaul & Stoner, 1994). When a teacher must deal with

frequent disruptions, it is difficult for learning to take place. The stress

placed on the teacher in these situations may have a negative influence on

the rapport with other children and affect the learning process (Brembeck,

1962; Ginott, 1972; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996; Nelson, Dykeman,

Powell, & Petty, 1996).

Disruptive children frequently have poor peer relationships (Bleck &

Bleck, 1982; Cole & Koeppel, 1990; DuPaul & Stoner, 1994; Hovland,

Smaby, & Maddux, 1996). They may be left out of group activities and

may experience rejection by their peers (Asher, Parkhurst, Hymel, &

Williams, 1990; Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990; Jewett, 1992). Children

rejected by their peers are likely to report high levels of loneliness and

personal unhappiness (Dodge, 1989). Coie and Dodge (1983) suggested

that at least half of rejected children are unable to resolve difficulites on

their own and remain socially rejected for several years. DuPaul and Stoner

(1994) reported that peer rejection status is typically stable over time.

Further, Dodge (1989) stated that "there is abundant evidence to indicate

that positive peer relationships are necessary requisites for...educational

success" (p. 222).

Students who are disruptive in the classroom have poor self-control

and frequently act out. Aggressive behavior, in particular, consistently

ranks as one of the most objectionable forms of student behaviors among

teachers (Hersh & Walker, 1983; Nelson, Dykeman, Powell, & Petty, 1996;

Walker, 1986). Disruptive children engage in destructive acts and often

display verbally and physically aggressive actions (Coie & Koeppel, 1990).

They exhibit high rates of noncompliance and defiance in response to

teacher requests (DuPaul & Stoner, 1994; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey,


Children who are disruptive tend to be poor learners (Bleck & Bleck,

1982; Dodge, 1989; DuPaul & Stoner, 1994; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux,

1996; Major, 1990; Myrick & Dixon, 1985; Reyes, 1991). Patterson,

Debaryshe, and Ramsey (1989) cited studies which found that children who

exhibit disruptive behavior in the classroom consistently show poor

academic achievement. Specifically, aggressive behavior has been

positively correlated with inadequate school adjustment and low academic

performance (Coopersmith, 1959; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995;

Wittmer & Myrick, 1980). Students with behavioral problems, moreover,

are at risk for not completing high school (Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux,

1996; Perez-Selles & Hergert, 1989).

Many children who exhibit difficulty with behavioral control in the

classroom are also at high risk for developing antisocial behavior (DuPaul &

Stoner, 1994; Hovland, Smaby, & Maddux, 1996). Griffin (1987) reported

that children who exhibited a greater number of antisocial behaviors, along

with developmental and academic problems before the age of nine,

displayed more aggressive tendencies as adults than children who did not

exhibit such early problem behavior. Research has indicated that if not dealt

with in an effective manner, disruptive children are at risk of escalating

behavioral symptoms and long term consequences which appear to be

precursors of more serious problems later on in adolescence and adulthood

(Dodge, 1989; Jones, Sheridan, & Binns, 1983; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey,


Attitudes about school and self are an important factor in learning.

When students do not like school they are generally not good learners. If

children feel accepted, successful, and important at school, they tend to

participate appropriately and achieve more (Myrick & Dixon, 1985; Myrick,

Merhill, & Swanson, 1986). A positive school experience is a major factor

in the formation of a positive self-concept. Children with high self-esteem

generally do better in school than those with lower self-esteem (Holly,

1992). Disruptive children experience more instances of negative discipline

than of praise and encouragement. As a result, their self-concepts and self-

esteem tend to be negatively influenced.

What causes children's misbehavior in the school? There are nature

theories, which point to the genetic, biochemical, or neurological disorders

as well as nurture theories, which look at the way in which children interact

with their environment. Behaviorists stress that all behavior, including the

misbehavior of children, is learned. Developmental theorists recognize that

children go through predictable stages which contribute to some forms of


Some attention has been given to Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity

Disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD exhibit inattention, impulsivity, and

overactivity that can lead to many problems in the school setting (DuPaul &

Stoner, 1994). Studies have indicated that approximately three to five

percent of children in the United States can be diagnosed with ADHD

(Barkley, 1990), meaning that approximately one child in a classroom of

twenty will have this disorder. Barkley (1990) stated that children with

ADHD may comprise up to forty percent of referrals to counseling services

out of the school setting. Boys with this disorder outnumber girls by

approximately three to one in community based agencies. Breen and

Barkley (1988) explained this gender difference as a greater prevalence in

disruptive behaviors, such as noncompliance, among boys with ADHD.

DuPaul and Stoner (1994) stated that there seems to be no apparent

single cause of ADHD. Rather, ADHD symptomatology may result from a

variety of causes. The greatest interest in empirical studies has been placed

on neurological factors, hereditary influences, and toxic reactions as being

causal factors in the disorder (Anastopoulos & Barkley, 1988).

Environmental factors such as family stress and poor parenting practices

appear to play a role in the severity of the disorder but have not been found

to be a causal factor (Barkley, 1990).

Another syndrome that has received a great deal of attention is

Conduct Disorder. Children who are conduct disordered display a broad

range of acting-out behaviors, ranging from annoying but relatively minor

behaviors such as yelling, whining, and temper tantrums to aggression,

physical destructiveness, and stealing. Typically, these behaviors do not

occur in isolation but as a complex of related behaviors. Conduct

disordered children have been labeled oppositional, antisocial, and socially

aggressive. Conduct disorders have been estimated to account for three to

four percent of the general population and boys are diagnosed as conduct

disordered two to three times more frequently than girls (McMahon & Wells,

1989). Patterson (1986) noted that researchers believe that the familial

socialization processes may be the major causal factor in the development

and maintenance of conduct-disordered behaviors.

Several authors have attempted to explain the disruptive behavior of

children in the classroom who have not been identified as ADHD or Conduct

Disordered. Gartrell (1994), a developmental educator, takes the position

that children do not actually misbehave. Instead, he suggested that what

adults see as disruptive, defiant, or other inappropriate behavior is mistaken

behavior. Young children are in the beginning stages of learning prosocial

behavior. They have limited experience dealing with the complex skills of

expressing strong emotions acceptably and getting along with others. It

may take some individuals into their adulthood before these interpersonal

skills are mastered. In this most complex of learning activities, then,

children tend to make mistakes. Adults may assume that children know

how to behave and that misbehavior is the result of a willful decision to

behave inappropriately. However, the decision to misbehave is made

because children have not developed the cognitive and emotional resources

necessary for more appropriate behavior. This approach requires that the

adult regard behavior traditionally thought of as misbehavior as mistaken

behavior. Therefore, mistaken behavior may be seen as the result of

attempts by inexperienced young children to interact with a complicated and

increasingly impersonal world (Gartrell, 1994).

Gartrell (1994) observed that there are three levels of mistaken

behavior: experimentation, socially influenced behavior, and behavior

motivated by strong needs. At level one, mistakes occur when the child is

curious and acts to see what will happen. Or, mistaken behavior may occur

when the child's actions in a situation do not get the expected results. A

child may pout when things don't go as planned. Or, a child may wait until

an adult's back is turned before demonstrating unhappiness with a situation.

The second level of mistaken behavior is that behavior which is socially

influenced. This happens when someone important to the child reinforces

an action, either intentionally or unintentionally. Level two mistaken

behavior may be observed in the actions of a child who hears an older

sibling using an expletive. Another example of this level of mistaken

behavior may be observed in the child who is influenced by classmates to

call another child a name. The third level of mistaken behavior occurs when

the child is reacting to a strong need. This level is the most serious kind of

mistaken behavior. Most often, strong needs mistaken behavior occurs

when a health condition is causing discomfort to the child, or when difficult

life experiences occur. The child reacts to pain and difficulty which is

beyond his or her capacity to cope with or understand (Gartrell, 1994).

Some writers focused on the developing self as the determining

dynamic in behavior. Self theorists such as Erikson (1950) and Rogers

(1961) suggested that if children felt successful, safe, and accepted in their

environment, they would see themselves positively and not need to

misbehave. Studies conducted in the area of the self-concept, the feelings

one holds to be true about oneself, seemed to indicate a general trend

supporting Erikson and Rogers. Children who felt better about themselves

tended to get along better with peers and do better in school than children

who saw themselves negatively.

Rudolf Dreikurs (1968) adapted principles of the self theorists. He

emphasized that all behavior is goal directed and the primary goal of

behavior is social acceptance by important others. A child's behavior

represents his or her attempt to feel significant and have a sense of

belonging. Misbehavior may indicate that a child did not develop the

cognitive understanding of how to find his or her own place, or, a child may

have experienced a real or perceived loss of status. Misbehavior reflects a

child's discouragement and an attempt to find a place in the group

(Dinkmeyer & McKay, 1982). Dreikurs and Soltz (1964) identified four

goals of misbehavior: attention getting, power seeking, revenge seeking,

and displaying inadequacy.

The first goal of misbehavior is the desire for attention. Attention

getting is influenced by the child's mistaken assumption that he or she only

has significance when at the center of attention. Dinkmeyer and McKay

(1982) stated that attention getting is almost universal in young children. It

is so common that many children will misbehave to receive negative

attention rather than behave appropriately and be ignored. The second goal

is that of power seeking. This mistaken goal of behavior usually occurs

after an adult has attempted to stop the child's demand for attention.

Children want to be in charge and will misbehave to win the struggle for

power over an adult. The child derives a great sense of satisfaction by

refusing to do what the adult is requesting. Giving in to the adult would

threaten the child's sense of personal value (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1964). If a

struggle continues and a child believes that defeat of the adult is not

possible, then the desire for power may intensify to one of revenge.

Children who look for revenge are convinced that they are insignificant and

unimportant. They believe that they are significant only when they are able

to hurt others as they believe they have been hurt. In their discouragement,

they find a place by being cruel and disliked (Dinkmeyer & McKay, 1982). If

the desire for retaliation and revenge continues, the fourth goal of

misbehavior may be seen as children become utterly defeated and seek to

be excused for their behaviors by displaying inadequacy. Underlying

inadequacy is extreme discouragement. These children believe neither

positive nor negative behavior will lead to any chance of success. They

become helpless and use this helplessness to avoid any task where

expected failure may be even more embarrassing (Dreikurs & Stoltz, 1964).

By giving up any hope of succeeding, children attempt to keep others from

expecting anything from them.

Popkin (1987) conceptualized four goals of behavior that were also

derived from the work of Dreikurs (1964): contact, power, protection, and

withdrawal. An individual's desire to belong leads to the first goal, making

contact. Initially, an infant needs to be held. Later, other forms of contact

are learned including attention and recognition. The second goal, the need

for power, is reflected in the desire to have a measure of control over one's

environment. The goal of protection involves both physical and

psychological defenses. Withdrawal, the fourth goal, serves to

counterbalance contact.

Popkin (1987) theorized that "there are no good or bad children, but

only encouraged or discouraged children, whose behavior is more or less

useful or useless" (p. 46). A child who feels encouraged is likely to pursue

the basic goals with behaviors that are considered positive. A child who

feels discouraged tends to pursue the same goals, but with behaviors likely

to be considered negative. A child who feels a lack of contact (attention or

recognition) may respond by seeking undue attention. A negative attempt

to gain power may be observed in a rebellious child. When a child becomes

extremely discouraged, avoidance may occur. A child is likely to give up,

become passive, and refuse to try anything in an effort to avoid the risk of

future failure.

Studer (1996) addressed the causes of a particularly troublesome

disruptive behavior, aggression. Aggression presents a significant challenge

to educators and is considered a primary concern of teachers (Elam, Rose, &

Gallup, 1994). There appear to be many causes of aggressive behavior in

young children including biological variables, family influences, and the

impact of television and other media (Studer, 1996).

Body chemicals such as testosterone and serotonin may influence

aggressive behavior. However, environment is also believed to play a part

in aggressive behavior. Studer (1996) suggested that there is evidence to

support the belief that nature and nurture are both factors in aggression

(Studer, 1996).

The role of the family is important in the development of aggression.

Meyers (1993) cited the family as the most violent institution in our society

after the military and law enforcement agencies. Discipline is considered a

key element in the development of aggressive, antisocial behaviors. When

parents use a physical approach to discipline their children, children learn

that battering or physical reactions are normal, effective methods for

expressing frustration. Children exposed to acts of force learn that

aggression is an acceptable problem-solving technique (Studer, 1996).

The relationship between media violence and aggression has not been

definitively established. Some researchers believe there is a causal

relationship between aggression in the media and aggression in children

(Meyers, 1993), while others argue that there are other factors, such as

intelligence that influence this relationship (Lippa, 1990).

Changing children's misbehavior and fostering productive behavior in

the classroom are important concerns of elementary counselors. Gerler's

(1985) review of elementary school counseling research from 1974 to 1984

provided evidence that counselors can make a difference in children's

classroom behavior, attitude toward school, and self-esteem, each of which

are factors in discipline. Research has suggested that the attitudes toward

the learning process, school, and peers developed in the primary grades

have a long-lasting impact on children's school success (Dobson, 1977;

Gartrell, 1987).

Many techniques have been used to help the disruptive child improve

classroom behavior. Bodiford-McNeil, Hembree-Kigin, and Eyberg (1996)

suggested that parent training, training in problem-solving skills, strategic

family therapy, and social skills training are effective interventions. Other

successful interventions include cognitive, behavioral, and developmental


Smith (1994) suggested elementary counseling intervention programs

could promote long-term improvement in a child's school-related behaviors.

He concluded that positive results were obtained when parent-child behavior

contracts were used with problematic school-related behavior. Purkey and

Juhnke (1994) suggested that parents, organized into a "parent patrol" may

be effective in reducing disruptive behavior in school. Family systems

theory has been used with children exhibiting disruptive behavior in the

schools (Amatea, 1989; Aponte & Fabrick, 1976; Fine & Carlson, 1992).

Family-school consultations apparently achieve changes in behavior.

Shields and Green (1996) proposed family consultation with the

classroom teacher using a systems approach to deal with classroom

behavior problems. This approach recognizes that classroom behavior is the

result of the classroom system influenced by the teacher-student interaction

and the influences of other students in the same classroom.

The professional literature contains many reports of successful

behavior modification programs using contracts and positive reinforcement

with children (Smith, 1994). For example, Shook, LaBrie, and Vallies (1990)

reported decreases in disruptive classroom behaviors following the

implementation of a token reward system in a first grade classroom.

The use of a developmental guidance approach has been advocated in

classrooms. The role of discipline should be to teach children how to get

along with others, express strong feelings in acceptable ways, and solve

problems. Young children are in the early stages of gaining social

competence, and lack cognitive and emotional resources to choose more

mature responses. Using unconditional positive regard and encouragement

can help children learn appropriate classroom behavior. This approach to

discipline takes a positive view of human nature. It allows children to

develop healthy self-concepts and grow toward social responsiveness

(Gartrell, 1994).

Myrick and Dixon (1985) investigated a structured, six-session, small

group intervention with fifth and sixth graders who were identified as having

poor attitudes toward school. Positive results were obtained in changing

student attitudes about school and achievement. The next year, Myrick,

Merhill, and Swanson (1986) reported a study first conducted in the state of

Florida and then replicated in Indiana. A six-session, developmental

guidance unit was successful in improving the attitudes and behaviors of

fourth grade students. In particular, task completion, compliance with

teacher directions, social skills, and feelings about school were improved.

Assertiveness training programs can reduce disruptive behavior.

Huey and Rank (1984) were successful in decreasing aggressive behaviors

while increasing assertive behaviors in the classroom with disruptive, low

achieving eighth and ninth grade boys.

Bodiford-McNeil, Hembree-Kigin, and Eyberg (1996) developed an

intervention for disruptive children that used play and play media.

Combining the child-centered tenets of allowing the child to take the lead,

the importance of the relationship between the child and adult, and the

therapist attitudes of warmth and unconditional positive regard with

cognitive-behavioral methods, a twelve session plan involved parents in

changing behaviors.

The Discovery Program, a cognitive-developmental intervention for

fourth and fifth grade boys with a history of inappropriate classroom

behaviors, used peer tutoring and role playing to improve behavior. It offers

a promising new approach to dealing effectively with students who exhibit

discipline and behavior problems (Brake & Gerler, Jr., 1994). Another

cognitive approach was advocated by Goldstein and Glick (1987), who

suggested the use of a Hassle Log. It was modified by Studer (1996) as an

Annoyance Journal to deal with anger that can lead to aggression.

A twelve-session plan, suggested by Sloves and Peterlin (1994), was

designed as an out-of-school intervention. This highly structured approach

is intended to help children develop age-appropriate psychological (internal)

and behavioral-social (interpersonal) competencies (Sloves & Peterlin, 1994).

Amatea and Sherrard (1991) described a brief therapy approach to

working with children exhibiting problematic behaviors in the school setting.

Inappropriate behavior is viewed as resulting from the mishandling of

predictable life events, and "how people interact is the most central factor

in shaping and maintaining problem behavior" (p. 341). In this approach to

changing behavior, the staff changes its behavior toward the student, and

the student responds by a change in behavior.

Bleck and Bleck (1982) reported the use of a developmentally based

counseling unit using play with disruptive third grade children. Self-concept,

improved attitudes toward school, and diminished disruptive behavior were

reported. Further, there may be a correlation between a positive self-

concept and positive classroom behavior. The results of this study indicated

that counselors using structured play can have positive effects on the

attitudes of disruptive children.

Developmental Guidance and Counseling

The Developmental Model of Guidance and Counseling

Human development is a process that occurs in stages over time as

individuals interact with their environment. The developmental guidance

approach maintains that the developmental process can be enhanced by

planned, appropriate educational interventions (Baker, 1996).

Developmental guidance is proactive and preventive in focus. Its

purpose is to help students acquire the knowledge, basic skills, self-

awareness, interests, and attitudes necessary for successful mastery of

normal developmental tasks (Borders & Drury, 1992; Wittmer 1993). The

mastery of developmental tasks at each life stage is essential for the

individual's effective functioning and happiness. Further, continued

developmental growth increases the likelihood of future success (Neukrug,

Barr, Hoffman, & Kaplan, 1993).

The work of the developmental counselor is based on the rationale

that providing early developmental guidance services to children can

enhance their present and future development and effectiveness.

Developmental counselors work toward helping children to be responsible

for their own choices and actions and to understand their own feelings. The

ability to know one's strengths and weaknesses, to have a sense of

personal worth and self-confidence, and to feel capable of meeting the tasks

of life realistically and successfully are among the cornerstones of

developmental counseling.

The role of the self-concept is important in the developmental model.

The self-concept is continually being shaped through experience and

education. DeMaria and Cowden (1992) referred to the self-concept as a

learned perceptual system involving a feedback loop that influences

behavior and is in turn changed by behavior. As an individual moves

through the developmental stages of life, the self-concept both influences

and is influenced by learning and interpersonal relationships (Myrick, 1993).

Self-concept helps shape the attitudes and personal styles of the individual

which in turn become an important part of the learning process. Significant

attitudes about self, others, school, and society are formed while the child is

growing. The interactions the child has will affect how learning takes place,

and also, how the person will function as a mature adult. Gerler and Myrick

(1991) suggested that children cannot realize their full potential unless they

have healthy self-concepts, high self-esteem, and effective interpersonal

skills. Further, Landreth (1993) cited poor self-esteem as a basic cause of

many academic and social problems in elementary school-age children.

The developmental approach attempts to identify certain skills and

experiences that are necessary for children to be successful in school. It

helps students learn effectively and efficiently within a learning climate that

fosters academic and personal growth by examining the specific

developmental concerns and identifying appropriate counseling interventions

(ASCA, 1990; Myrick, 1993; Neukrug, Barr, Hoffman, & Kaplan, 1993).

In the school setting, developmental concerns typically include peer

relationships, getting along better with parents, siblings and teachers,

making new friends, and dealing with feelings (Dinkmeyer & Muro, 1977).

Further, emphasis is placed on assisting individual students with the

resolution of special problems and concerns (Morrill, Getting, & Hurst,

1974). Developmental counseling is an attempt to meet the needs of all

students, addressing their concerns, helping them to find answers to their

questions, and helping them to make appropriate choices. Those learning

behaviors and tasks that are considered important are offered to

complement the academic curriculum. Further, the life skills necessary for

adulthood are emphasized as part of the program (Hoffman, 1991).

The opportunity to learn about oneself and relationships with others

before encountering a problem is a cornerstone of the developmental model.

The children learn interpersonal skills, then, if a crisis situation does occur,

they are able to draw upon skills to work out the problem. As students

learn to interact with others in a positive and effective manner, they take a

more active part in learning, and in doing so, help create a positive school

environment (Myrick, 1993).

The developmental counselor incorporates skill building within a

framework related to the developmental stages, tasks, and learning

conditions encountered by the child. Since the child is usually more open to

learning when not on the defensive, the counselor will often use

hypothetical situations to explore ideas, feelings, and behaviors. In this

way, the child is able to look calmly at a situation rather than simply

reacting in an excited manner (Myrick, 1993).

Myrick (1993) identified eight points which characterize almost all

developmental guidance and counseling programs, a number of which are

particularly important to this study. Specifically, the goal of understanding

self and others is vital in helping children learn more about their own

abilities, interests, and personal characteristics. Children learn to identify

their strengths and explore areas in which they want to improve.

Relationships with peers, teachers, and other adults are stressed as children

learn self-acceptance and develop self-confidence. Expanding this goal

leads to understanding attitudes and behaviors. Children learn that habits,

attitudes, and perceptions influence behavior. Further, understanding how

feelings and behaviors are related to goals and consequences is explored,

allowing children to change their behavior, if desired. Another goal of

particular interest to this study is the goal of interpersonal and

communication skills. These skills emphasize the value of developing

positive interpersonal relationships and the importance of communication

skills in getting along with others and forming friendships. Since a primary

goal of a developmental approach is school success, a final point with

special significance to this study is the goal of school success. Here,

conflict resolution with peers and teachers and the development of positive

attitudes and habits are stressed, enabling children to get the most out of

the school experience.

Learning and growth is emphasized through programs designed to

enhance the positive development of individuals and groups. To accomplish

this goal, developmental counselors frequently make use of a unit, an

organized set of understandings and experiences designed to facilitate

personal, social, and academic growth. Through a series of counseling

sessions delivered individually, in small groups, or in the classroom setting,

the normal concerns or target problem situations are addressed through a

sequential set of procedures and activities.

In 1970, Dinkmeyer published Developing Understanding of Self and

Others (DUSO). This is a guidance program that can help children learn

about themselves and others through a variety of activities suitable for use

in the classroom and small groups. This structured program set an example

for the development of guidance units and sessions at all grade levels

(Myrick, 1993).

Many developmental guidance units have been successfully

implemented in small groups on the elementary school level. For example,

units have been designed to increase social competence (Coppock, 1993;

Mehaffey & Sandberg, 1992), build self-esteem (Coppock, 1993), reduce

disruptive behavior (Brake & Gerler, Jr., 1994; Bleck & Bleck, 1982), teach

anger management techniques (Phillips-Hershey & Kanagy, 1996), raise

academic achievement (Bourwell & Myrick, 1992; Lee, 1993), reduce stress

(Romano, Miller, & Nordness, 1996), improve attitude and motivation

toward school (Myrick & Campbell, 1990; Myrick & Dixon, 1985) and

increase cultural awareness (Blum & Toenniessen, 1992). The use of the

developmental units in the schools is an effective counselor intervention that

is structured to take advantage of time and allows children to work together

in a natural, comfortable setting.

Developmental Play Counseling

Play counseling may have a developmental focus when children are

helped to cope with stressful situations in their lives (Campbell, 1993b).

Child-centered play therapy has been used effectively in elementary schools.

Landreth (1993) suggested that it is, perhaps more than any other play

therapy approach, truly developmental in nature, because there is no

pressure on children to change. Child-centered play therapy can be used

effectively by elementary school counselors to aid change and growth in a

variety of developmental problem areas experienced by children such as lack

of self-control, socially inappropriate behavior and the development of self-

esteem (Landreth, 1993).

DeMaria and Cowden (1992) pointed to the conceptual fit of the

child-centered approach and the development of the self-concept. Many of

the techniques used to enhance self-concept are similar to Axline's non-

directive, client-centered play therapy techniques (DeMaria & Cowden,

1992). Unconditional acceptance, a basic tenet of client-centered play

therapy, conveys to a child that he or she is wanted, liked, and valued.

Coopersmith (1967) listed parental warmth, respectful treatment, and

clearly defined limits as antecedents of self-esteem. These are also used as

guidelines in client-centered play therapy. Axline's client-centered play

therapy has provided a sound foundation for impacting self-concept

(DeMaria & Cowden, 1992).

For many years, the term play media was used to refer to the use of

play techniques in counseling. The use of the term play therapy was

avoided, because of its original use with disturbed or maladjusted children.

Dinkmeyer and Muro (1977) advised elementary counselors to stress that

although there is some overlap in the techniques and basic philosophy in the

use of play media in counseling and play therapy, the two are not the same.

More recently, Hoffman (1993) suggested that despite the differences in

terminology and the populations served, few other substantial differences

exist between the use of play media in counseling and play therapy. The

only important difference concerns the use of interpretive techniques that

are rarely used by school counselors in developmental counseling. The use

of the term play therapy has become increasingly popular to refer to the

elementary counselor's use of play techniques in counseling children

(Barlow, Strother, & Landreth, 1985; Landreth, 1987). Others prefer the

use of the term developmental play counseling because it conveys the

essence and purpose of developmental counseling with children in the

elementary school (Hoffman, 1991).

The developmental play counselor relies on the effective use of

counseling responses to help the children. It is the communication of

understanding, respect, and nonjudgmental acceptance that encourages the

free expression of emotions and behavior (Hoffman, 1991). The use of

facilitative responses helps the child express and understand feelings,

behaviors, relationships, and life experiences. As the child plays, the

counselor responds by reflecting feelings, thoughts, and actions and by

clarifying and summarizing. These responses are focused on the feelings,

ideas, actions, and circumstances being expressed in the play. They are not

personalized to the child and, therefore, are not threatening (Hoffman,

1991). When questions seem to be necessary to expand on the feelings,

ideas, behaviors, or situations in play, open questions are used to encourage

further expression. In this way, the counselor not only learns more about

the child, but conveys understanding, acceptance, respect, interest, and


It is important that the counselor convey the feelings of genuineness,

respect, empathy, acceptance, and warmth identified by Rogers (1951) to

foster the therapeutic relationship and positive growth. The counselor must

be emotionally present and communicate a genuine belief in the ability of

the child to be self-directed and personally effective (Hoffman, 1991).

Developmental play counseling encourages children to take

responsibility for themselves and to make choices in the counseling

situation. In doing so, children increase feelings of competence and self-

confidence which are necessary for positive growth (Hoffman, 1991).


Play Defined

Play has been called a universal behavior in children. It is a "serious

purposeful business through which (children) develop mentally, physically,

and socially...through which confusion, anxieties, and conflicts are often

worked through" (Oaklander, 1978, p.160). Schaefer (1993) pointed out

the importance of play in the lives of children. Play is to children what

verbalization is to adults--the most natural medium for self-expression. He

reported that by the time a child has reached the age of six, more than

fifteen thousand hours have been devoted to play. Ginott (1961) referred to

play as the language of children, and toys as the words. Similarly,

Oaklander (1978) stated that play serves as a symbolic language for


Play has been defined in many ways. Bergen (1988) cites definitions

for play offered by educators and philosophers such as: the natural

unfolding of childhood; the motor habits of the past persisting in the

present; and instinctive practice of activities which will later be essential to

life. Berlyne defined play as "a self-motivated activity that satisfies a child's

innate need to explore and master his environment" (Schaefer, 1993, p. 7).

It would seem that Erikson (1964) was right when he said, "in its own

playful way, it (play) tries to elude definition" (p. 4).

Although there are many definitions offered in the literature for play,

lately there has been an emerging consensus of the common characteristics

of play behaviors (Schaefer, 1993). First, play is intrinsic versus extrinsic.

Play activities are intrinsically motivated because the activity is pleasurable.

Play does not need extrinsic rewards, but rather, it seems to satisfy an inner

desire. Second, the process of play is more important than the end result.

The concern of the child at play is with the play activity itself, not the

outcome of the activity. Third, positive feelings accompany play and can be

observed in the smiles and laughter of the child. Fourth, the child often

becomes so involved in play that awareness of time and surroundings is

lost. Fifth, play has a nonliteral quality. The "as if" feelings associated with

play lend realism to make-believe. Sixth, the freedom to impose novel

meanings on objects and events is possible in play. Play is concerned with

what can be done with an object instead of what the object was designed

to do (Schaefer, 1993).

Rationale for Children's Play

The definitions of play offer many explanations for why people,

especially children, engage in play. Bergen (1988) pointed out that efforts

to understand why children play has been going on for hundreds of years.

Gilmore (1971) identified six theories of play that he categorized as either

classical or dynamic theories to explain play. However, as Schaefer (1993)

cautioned, while the different explanations or theories of play have some

validity, there is no unifying theory that integrates all the positive qualities

of play.

The older, classical theories, were formulated in the mid to late

nineteenth century. The Surplus Energy Theory was proposed by the

nineteenth century British philosopher Herbert Spencer (1873) based on the

writings of Friedrich von Schiller (Millar, 1974). This theory postulates that

there is a certain quantity of energy available to an organism, and the

organism tends to expend that energy either in goal-directed activity (work),

or in non-goal directed activity (play). Animals lower on the evolutionary

scale than man use more of their energy in survival activities such as

looking for food and escaping from predators. Children are likely to have a

greater range of skills than animals and will tend to have extra energy

beyond that which is needed for survival. The surplus energy will build up

and exert internal pressure which is released through activity such as play

(Millar, 1974; Schaefer, 1993). Any time the children have more energy

available than is needed for work, play occurs. The content of the play is

not important and one form of play can be easily substituted for another.

The Relaxation, or Recreation Theory, states that play is used to

replenish energy expended in work. Proposed by the German poet Moritz

Lazarus, this theory suggests that we play to restore energy expended in

work. Energy is regenerated by doing an activity different from the work

that used it up. Play, the opposite of work, is an ideal way to restore this

lost energy (Schaefer, 1993).

The Pre-Exercise Theory, proposed by the Dutch philosopher Karl

Groos (1901), suggests that play is instinctive behavior. Based on Darwin's

principle of natural selection, Groos believed that play is essential to

survival. Play enables the child to practice and perfect skills needed to

survive (Millar, 1974). A child will instinctively become involved in play

activities that are essentially a form of the more mature behaviors that will

have to be performed as an adult. Therefore, play is seen as preparation for

future work and the content of a child's play is determined by adult activity.

G. Stanley Hall is credited with developing the Recapitulation Theory

that suggests the individual relives the activities of earlier stages in the

development of the human race through play. Hall's theory of play is based

on the idea that children pass through all the stages of man, from protozoa

to human, in their existence before birth. Some of the stages are thought to

resemble the developmental sequence of structure and behavior from fish to

man. "This seemed to provide evidence that individual development

ontogenyy) repeats that of the race (phylogeny)" (Millar, 1974, p.17). Hall

believed that play resembled the activities of primitive man and allowed

children to discharge some of their primitive and unnecessary instinctual

skills (Bergen, 1988) and prepare for the sophisticated activities of the

modern world.

The dynamic theories offer explanations of why people play by

looking at the play process. Two theories are identified by Gilmore (1971).

The first is derived from psychoanalytic theory which considers play to be a

cathartic activity. Catharsis refers to the arousal and discharge of strong

emotions, both positive and negative, for therapeutic relief (Schaefer,

1993). Catharsis allows for the expression of difficult emotional feelings

and their ultimate mastery. By playing out difficult circumstances and

having the opportunity to master feelings through play, children internalize

what has been learned and are better able to handle the reality. Play helps

children cope with difficult situations such as the first day of school, going

to the hospital, or the birth of a new sibling.

A second dynamic theory is based on the work of Piaget (1962).

Piaget viewed the development of intelligence as a process of assimilation

and accommodation. In assimilation, an individual takes information from

the outside world and fits that information into the organizing framework of

what is already known. In the process of accommodation, the individual is

able to modify these frameworks when needed to deal with new knowledge

and information. Therefore, to Piaget, the process of play promotes a

child's creativity and flexible thinking. It is a way of taking elements from

the outside world and manipulating them so that they fit into the individual's

organizational scheme.

Theories of Play Counseling

The role of play in the lives of children has been recognized as

significant for centuries. In the late 1700s, Rousseau wrote about the

importance of observing the play of children in order to understand them

(Landreth, 1991). In 1903, Froebel emphasized the symbolic nature of play.

His belief was that play has definite conscious and unconscious purposes

and could be examined for its meaning. As quoted in Landreth (1991),

Froebel wrote, "Play is the highest development in childhood, for it alone is

the free expression of what is in the child's soul...Children's play is not

mere sport. It is full of meaning and import" (Froebel, 1903, p.22).

In 1909, Sigmund Freud published the first case of "Little Hans," a

five year old boy who was phobic. This case represented the first

description of a therapeutic approach to working with a child. Freud saw

Little Hans only one time and treated him by advising the child's father of

ways to respond based on the father's notes about the child's play. The

case of "Little Hans" is significant because it is the first case in which a

child's problem was attributed to emotional causes. Further, the play

behavior was key in determining the child's problem and its ultimate

resolution. Landreth (1991) noted that today, emotional factors are so

readily accepted that it may be difficult to appreciate the magnitude of what

was then a new concept of psychological disturbance in children. Reisman

(1966) explained that at the turn of the twentieth century, professionals

generally believed childhood disorders were caused by deficiencies in the

child's education and training (Landreth, 1991).

At the start of the twentieth century, there was no uniform

therapeutic psychological approach being used with children. Play therapy

developed from early efforts to apply the principles of psychoanalytic

therapy to children.

Psychoanalytic play therapy

The psychoanalytic approach to play therapy makes no attempt to

pressure the child in any predetermined direction or alternate course of

action. Play is used as a means of establishing contact with the child, a

method of observation and source of data, and as a vehicle for

interpretative insight. Landreth (1991) termed the work of Hermine Hug-

Hellmuth, Anna Freud, and Melanie Klein as revolutionary in changing

attitudes about children and their problems.

Hermine Hug-Hellmuth (1921) was one of the first to emphasize the

use of play in child analysis by providing children with play materials to

facilitate self expression. She called attention to the difficulty of applying

adult therapeutic approaches to working with children. She stressed that

children are unable to express their anxieties verbally as adults do, making

free association, a fundamental technique in adult psychoanalysis, of little


Melanie Klein began using play in 1919 as a way of analyzing children

under six years of age. She assumed that the children's play was

equivalent to free association in adults and used play to encourage children

to express their fantasies, anxieties and defenses which could then be

interpreted. Klein believed that play therapy provided a direct access to the

preconscious and unconscious mechanisms of children.

Anna Freud also used play in the process of analysis. Unlike Klein,

however, Freud's use of play was intended to establish an emotional

relationship between the child and the therapist--to get the child to like the

therapist. Anna Freud made little direct interpretation of the child's play.

Her belief was that play had little emotional value because it consisted of

only a conscious repetition of recent experiences (Landreth, 1991). Freud

delayed the use of direct interpretation of the child's play until she had

gained extensive knowledge by observing the play of the child and

interviewing the parents. Since free association was not appropriate for

children, Anna Freud encouraged the child to verbalize daydreams or

fantasies, and when they had difficulty discussing these feelings, she had

them sit quietly and "see pictures." In this way, the child was able to learn

to verbalize thoughts and discover their meaning based on the

interpretations offered by the therapist (Landreth, 1991). Gradually, as the

child developed a stronger relationship with the therapist and the ability to

verbalize thoughts, the emphasis of the sessions was shifted from play to

more traditional interactions.

Active plav therapy

Solomon (1938) developed a technique called Active Play Therapy

which was used with impulsive and acting-out children. Through play, a

child could be helped to express emotions such as rage and fear without

experiencing negative consequences. The therapist's interactions with the

child helped redirect the energy previously directed toward acting-out to

more socially acceptable play behaviors.

Release plav therapy

Melanie Klein visited the United States in 1929. She later reported

(Klein, 1955) that play was not used very often as part of the therapeutic

procedure with children (Landreth, 1991). A major step in increasing the

use of play as a therapeutic intervention with children occurred with the

work of David Levy. Levy (1939) developed Release Therapy, a structured

play approach used with children who had been through a specific stressful

situation. Levy believed in the abreactive effect of play. Abreaction is the

reliving of past stressful events and the emotions associated with them

(Schaefer, 1993). In Release Therapy, the therapist provides the materials

which help the child to recreate the stressful experience through play. After

a brief period of free play during which the child becomes familiar with the

materials, the child is encouraged to reenact the traumatic situation. By

reenacting the traumatic event through play, the child is able to deal with

the stresses and traumas and gradually achieve mastery over the feelings

associated with the event. The process of play allows the child to be in

control of the situation and move from a passive role of having been 'done

to' into an active role of being the 'doer' (Landreth, 1993). Since the

situation is being reenacted in play, there is less anxiety because it is just

"pretend." The therapist reflects the verbal and nonverbal feelings

expressed by the child during play. In the process of therapy, situations can

be set up that allow the child to reexperience an event or a relationship in a

different way, with a more positive outcome than that of the original event.

The child can use play to gain mastery over events which may be interfering

with development (Schaefer, 1993).

Structured play therapy

Gove Hambidge (1955) extended the work done by Levy with an

approach known as Structured Play Therapy. Hambidge was more direct in

his approach than Levy. After the establishment of a therapeutic

relationship, Hambidge would directly recreate the anxiety producing

situation, have the child play out the situation, and then allow the child to

play freely to recover from the difficult activity.

Relationship play therapy

A significant development in the history of play therapy was the work

of Jesse Taft (1933) and Frederick Allen (1934) which is referred to as

Relationship Therapy. This approach signified a major break from the

psychoanalytic school and evolved from the work of Otto Rank (1936).

Rank deemphasized the importance of past history and the unconscious.

Instead, he stressed the importance of functioning in the present and the

development of the relationship between the therapist and client.

Relationship play therapy places its primary emphasis on the curative

power of the emotional relationship between the child and the therapist.

There is no interpretation of past experiences. Rather, the primary focus of

attention is on present feelings and reactions. Relationship therapists stress

children's capacity to modify personal behaviors. The play technique allows

children to choose whether to play or not to play, and to direct the activity

in their own way. Children gradually come to realize their existence as

unique, separate individuals who can exist in a relationship with others. The

responsibility for growth is given to the child. The therapist then

concentrates on the difficulties that are of concern to the child rather than

on those concerning the therapist or other adults.

Non-directive olav theraov

The work of the relationship therapists was studied and expanded by

Carl Rogers (1942) who developed non-directive therapy. Once referred to

as client-centered therapy, the approach is known today as person-centered

or child-centered therapy. Virginia Axline, a student of Carl Rogers, applied

the principles of the non-directive approach to children using play as a

therapeutic technique.

The non-directive, or person-centered approach to counseling takes a

positive view of human nature and holds that we have an innate striving

toward self-actualization. We move toward increased awareness and strive

to become fully functioning. Further, we have the potential to be aware of

our problems and how to resolve them. The role of the therapist within this

structure is to provide a safe climate for the exploration of self. The

relationship between the client and the therapist is of primary importance.

The attitudes and qualities of the therapist such as genuiness, warmth,

empathy, and respect and the communication of these attitudes to the client

are vital. The relationship with the therapist is used to transfer the learning

during counseling to other relationships (Corey, 1986).

Play therapy is the process by which the child plays out feelings,

brings the feelings to the surface, gets them out into the open, faces them,

and learns to either control them or abandon them. Play helps children

understand their feelings in an objective way without additional anxiety,

fear, or guilt (Axline, 1947). When a child's feelings are expressed,

identified, and accepted, the child is able to internalize them and then is free

to deal with those feelings.

Child-centered play therapy is characterized by a relationship of

understanding and acceptance between the child and the therapist. It is

through this special relationship that the child is able to change and grow,

as well as to consider new behavioral possibilities which lead to an

expansion of self-expression (Landreth, 1993). According to Axline (1950),

a play experience is therapeutic because it provides a secure
relationship between the child and the adult, so that the child has the
freedom and room to state himself in his own terms, exactly as he is
at that moment in his own way and in his own time. (p. 68)

In the child-centered approach, the child determines the areas that

need to be explored and takes the lead in pursuing them as well as the

course of the relationship. The child-centered play therapist recognizes the

child's ability to move toward adjustment, independence, and self-

actualization and allows the child to set the pace. The child is free to play

or remain silent while the therapist actively reflects the child's thoughts and

feelings. There is no attempt to question or evaluate the child's thoughts or

expressions since this is considered to be interfering with the child's

responsibility in the relationship (Landreth, 1993).

The child-centered approach is grounded in the belief that behavior is

shaped by the individual's movement toward growth and the capacity for

self-direction. Behavior is caused by the drive toward complete self-

realization (Landreth, 1993). The child's behavior is seen as an effort to

satisfy needs within a personal framework of reality. Therefore, in order to

understand the child, the counselor must understand the child's perception

of reality (Landreth, 1993). Since the counselor tries to understand the

child's internal frame of reference, the counselor avoids judging the child's

behavior or trying to change the child.

The child-centered therapist does not use techniques as such, but

instead relies on eight basic principles as defined by Axline (1947) that

serve as a guideline for therapeutic contact with the child. These principles


1. the development of a warm, friendly relationship with the child

2. the acceptance of the child exactly as he is

3. the establishment of a feeling of permissiveness in the relationship

so that the child feels free to express his feelings completely

4. the feelings of the child are recognized and reflected back in a

way as to help the child gain insight into his or her behavior

5. the respect for the child's ability to solve his or her own problems

6. the child takes the lead in actions or conversation and the

therapist follows

7. the recognition that therapy is a gradual process that cannot be


8. the establishment of only those limits that are necessary to anchor

the therapy to the world of reality and to make the child aware of his

responsibility in the relationship.

In the child-centered approach, it is the child in the present moment

and not the problem that serves as the point of focus. Landreth (1993)

pointed out that focusing on the child's problem may lead the play therapist

to lose sight of the child. The therapist tries to experience the child's world

of the moment. The counselor communicates this willingness to experience

the world as the child sees it through four messages: "I am here, I hear

you, I understand you, I care about you" (Landreth, 1993, p. 21). The

counselor is highly interactive verbally and responsive to the child so that

the child feels as though the therapist is part of whatever the child is

engaged in at the moment, even though the therapist may not be physically

participating. The child-centered counselor is never just an observer but is

always a participant on an emotional and verbal level (Landreth, 1993).

Guerney (1983) suggested that compared to many other therapeutic

play approaches, a great deal of outcome research exists in client-centered

therapy. These studies have consistently demonstrated positive treatment

effects both with professional counselors and non-professionals providing

the intervention. For example, a study by Bills (1950a) involved poor

readers who were considered by their teachers to be maladjusted in the

classroom. After a six week period of child-centered play therapy,

significant gains in reading achievement were noted. These gains were

sustained through an additional follow-up period of six weeks. Bills (1950b)

repeated the study with poor readers who were considered to be well

adjusted by their teachers and other school personnel. This time, there

were no significant improvements found in reading achievement. Bills

concluded that the gains in reading found in the first study were related to

improvement in adjustment (Guerney, 1983). The importance of these

studies point to the efficacy of the child-centered approach.

Dorfman (1958) matched a group of children considered to be

maladjusted to a control group of maladjusted children. After an average of

nineteen weeks of child-centered play therapy delivered on a weekly basis,

the children receiving treatment showed significant improvement in

adjustment over the controls. Important factors in this study were that the

therapeutic sessions took place in school and the children were considered

maladjusted by their teachers.

A 1964 study by Seeman, Barry, and Ellinwood using random

assignment to experimental conditions demonstrated positive results among

children with poor school adjustment and aggressive behavior. After

treatment in child-centered play therapy concluded, a one year follow-up

was conducted. At this time, children in the treatment group had lower

than average scores on aggression, whereas the control group had higher

than average aggression scores.

Reif and Stollak (1972, as cited in Guerney, 1983) conducted a study

that used undergraduate students as therapists. The study intended to

demonstrate that non-professionals (in this case undergraduate students),

when trained and supervised in conducting child-centered therapy, could

produce therapeutic conditions and demonstrate positive changes in

essentially normal children (Guerney, 1983). The control group was offered

a placebo therapy. The untrained undergraduates played in whatever way

they chose to provide the child with a positive experience. The results

indicated that children receiving child-centered play sessions delivered by

the trained undergraduates were more expressive and tended to deal more

appropriately with both intrapersonal and interpersonal situations than

children not receiving child-centered sessions (Guerney, 1983).

More recently, Crow (1989) held ten, thirty-minute, individual, child-

centered play therapy sessions with twelve first grade students who had

been retained due to low achievement in reading. The results of the study

demonstrated significant improvement in the self-concepts of these children

when compared to those in a matched control group.

Sixteen incarcerated fathers were trained by Landreth (1993) to use

child-centered play therapy techniques with their children in filial therapy

sessions. The fathers held thirty-minute play sessions on visitation day

once a week for ten weeks. The self-concepts of these children improved

significantly when compared to those in a control group of incarcerated

fathers and their children (Landreth, 1993).

Although the professional play therapist typically has a background in

a clinical area, Guerney (1983) reported that there is nothing inherent in the

method that requires such a background.

The children seem to have a positive experience during the play
sessions regardless of who the therapists are, and show improvements in
play session behaviors. When supervised by a professional, many
nonprofessionals have been trained to use child-centered methods and have
demonstrated the ability to effect desirable changes in the children,
paralleling those created by professionals. (Guerney, 1983, p. 28)

Therapeutic Uses of Play

An approach to therapy or counseling is therapeutic if it results in a

verifiable improvement. The improvement itself may be a decrease in

symptoms (e.g. inappropriate talking in the classroom) or an increase in

desired behaviors (e.g. observing classroom rules). Schaefer (1993)

identified fourteen therapeutic factors in play that contribute to its

effectiveness. The factors relevant to this study are discussed.

Play, by its very nature is fun. It is a behavior that is pleasurable in

its own right and needs no incentive. The positive affect which

accompanies play contributes to a sense of well-being and relieves stress.

Further, research indicates that enjoyment of a task encourages children to

persist at that task (Schaefer, 1993). In this respect, play may be viewed

as therapeutic due to its motivational nature.

The establishment of rapport is a vital component in most theories of

counseling. Researchers have reported that poor therapeutic outcome has

been associated with lack of rapport (Colson, Cornsweet, & Murphy, 1991).

Rapport is particularly important when one is working with young children

since in most cases they do not voluntarily come to counseling. Typically,

children come to counseling because their parents or teachers want them to

be there. Usually they do not feel troubled, but they are troublesome to

those around them (Schaefer, 1993). Play can be particularly helpful in

establishing rapport with a child (Campbell, 1993b). Play provides an

excellent means of establishing this rapport since it is an interesting,

enjoyable, and natural activity.

A related therapeutic function of play is the enhanced relationship

that develops between the child and the counselor. Play facilitates a

positive relationship because the interactions are fun and concerned with

enjoyment rather than achievement. Play fosters positive feelings which

contribute to a sense of well-being and a spirit of acceptance and

cooperation (Schaefer, 1993). Rogers (1951) recognized that when a child

feels accepted, respected, and esteemed, a positive self-concept is

facilitated. On the other hand, if a child feels rejected or devalued,

behaviors such as defiance, aggression, and withdrawal are likely to occur.

Sachs (1983) cited a number of studies that support the positive correlation

between good relationships and desirable clinical outcomes.

Communication is another therapeutic factor facilitated by play. Play

is the child's most natural form of expression. The elementary school child

may have difficulty using words to fully communicate feelings, needs, and

thoughts. As noted by Schaefer (1993), "Toys are a young child's words,

and play is his natural language" (p. 6). Play allows children to

communicate thoughts and feelings they may be aware of but unable to

express verbally. The play process also allows the child to symbolically

express unconscious wishes, conflicts, and emotions. Through play, the

child is able to communicate feelings and emotions that may be causing

conflict and inhibiting natural development.

A third therapeutic factor is the power, control, and mastery of the

environment that is facilitated through play. Play is a self-motivated activity

that satisfies children's innate need to explore and master their

environments. Apart from play there are few areas in children's lives that

produce a sense of mastery (Schaefer, 1993). A major function of play is to

provide children opportunities to learn to cope with difficult situations

(Landreth, 1993). Play offers an enjoyable structure in which children are

able to learn about the world and gain skills needed to live in society. Since

children engaged in an enjoyable activity tend to persist at it longer, play is

likely to lead to success.

Creative thinking during play leads to improved problem solving skills

by allowing the child to experiment with different options without the fear of

making a mistake. Sylva, Bruner, and Genova (1976, as cited in Schaefer,

1993) point to numerous studies indicating that prior play experience in

areas of concern actually improved the child's problem solving related to

those areas. The process of play appears to help a child find alternatives

and more effective solutions to problems in the areas of social relationships

and emotional health. Play provides the child with an opportunity to

develop and practice new behaviors that may be useful in everyday life

(Campbell, 1993b).

The therapeutic process of catharsis refers to the reduced physical

and emotional tension achieved through acting aggressively on inanimate

objects such as punching bags, pillows, and bobo dolls. The play

experience allows a child the opportunity to experience emotional release

without fear of retaliation or disapproval (Schaefer, 1993). Further, the play

experience allows the release of intense feelings such as anger and anxiety

that had been hard, if not impossible, for the child to express before.

Another therapeutic factor associated with play is its ability to

facilitate abreaction, the reliving of past stressful events and the emotions

associated with them (Schaefer, 1993). Piaget (1962) pointed out that

young children use play to symbolically relive unpleasant past experiences.

Through play, the child gains a sense of mastery over an event that they

tend to have no control over. The outcome may be changed or reversed

allowing children to achieve resolution of a problematic situation. Children

are then better able to cope or adjust as necessary (Landreth, 1993).

Erikson (1940) stated that playing out troublesome situations is a natural

process of childhood. Further, since children are engaged in pretend play,

they can control the events and will likely feel less anxiety.

Play offers children the opportunity to try out new behaviors through

role-playing. Children are able to try out new behaviors that may not have

been considered before, and to experience what it feels like to behave in

this new way. Another advantage of role-playing is that it allows children to

explore their own behaviors from the perspective of another whose role they

assume in play. Further, role play encourages the development of empathy,

the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another, leading to increased

understanding of the other person's thoughts, actions, and feelings.

Schaefer (1993) pointed out that the more children are able to experience

situations from the perspective of another, the less egocentric they become.

Role playing has been found to be positively related to teacher ratings of

social competence, peer popularity, empathy, and prosocial behavior among

children (Rubin, Fein, & Bandenberg, 1983; Strayer & Roberts, 1989).

Play enhances the flexible and varied use of imagery (Schaefer,

1993). Children learn about themselves and enlarge their world by

fantasizing. In the world of imagination, children do not have to be satisfied

with current realities or their own limitations. Fantasy or make-believe play

allows children to create characters, settings, and events that may not be

part of their environment. Fantasy gives children power over their world,

even when that control is lacking is real life. Imagination can help children

overcome fears and anxieties through the development of feelings of

mastery over their environment.

Metaphoric teaching, or myths, is an important therapeutic function

of play. Schaefer (1993) called humans myth-making beings who create

reality by believing in stories they have told about it. Myths help shape an

individual's belief system. Through the use of myth, or story telling,

messages can be communicated to the child that address conflicts, fears,

and other problems the child may be experiencing. The story may offer

more adaptive solutions for problems. Gardner (1993) employed the use of

mutual storytelling to help a child discover different solutions for and

perspectives in troubling situations. Mills and Crowley (1986) supported the

therapeutic value of metaphor. Through identification with characters in a

story, the child may be able to replace feelings of isolation and hopelessness

with a sense that a problem is shared by others and has a solution.

Play may be helpful in the mastery of developmental fears. Behavioral

theory incorporates a therapeutic technique known as counterconditioning.

Through this process, the child learns a new response to a stimulus that is

incompatible with the previous response, leading to a decrease in anxiety.

The principle behind this process is known as reciprocal inhibition (Wolpe,

1958) which states, "If a response inhibitor of anxiety can be made to occur

in the presence of anxiety-evoking stimuli, it will weaken the bond between

these stimuli and the anxiety" (p. 15). A response that inhibits anxiety is

the enjoyment a child feels during play (Schaefer, 1993). Barnett and Storm

(1981) cited physiological evidence that play has been found to reduce


A final therapeutic advantage of play was offered by Campbell

(1993b). She explained that play allows children to distance themselves

from emotional material that is too difficult to deal with by projecting their

feelings onto a doll or other inanimate object. Play enables children to

transfer anxieties, fears, fantasies, and guilt to objects instead of people.

The counselor uses play media to direct the attention to objects, not the

children themselves. This reduces the threat and makes it easier for the

children to talk about difficult emotional material. In this way, they feel safe

from their own feelings and reactions because the play provides an

emotional distance from the troubling experiences. Children are not

overwhelmed by their own actions because it takes place in fantasy

(Landreth, 1993).

Play Therapy

"As all play helps a child to share himself and, in varying degree, to

re-enact, re-live and release, all play has some therapeutic value" (Amster,

1943, p. 68). Play provides a healing and growth process that the child is

able to use naturally and independently, except when that healing and

growth process is significantly interrupted (Cochran, 1996). Play serves as

the basis for a working alliance between the child and the counselor. It is a

natural form of communication for the child, which contributes to

understanding, self-esteem, problem solving, insight, emotional adjustment,

and interpersonal growth and development. It is the therapeutic function of

play which allows change to take place.

Just as the literature suggests many meanings of play, play therapy

has been defined in many ways. For example, Axline (1947) explained that

play therapy is based on play as children's natural medium of self-

expression. Children are given the opportunity to play out their feelings and

problems just as adults talk out their feelings and problems. Further,

Schaefer (1993) defined play therapy as an interpersonal process during

which a trained therapist uses the therapeutic powers of play to help

children resolve their emotional difficulties.

During the 1940s and 1950s, play therapy was the major form of

therapeutic intervention for children. As newer approaches became popular

such as behavior therapy and family therapy, play lost its appeal to

therapists, but found a niche with counselors in the schools. Now, play is

again being viewed as a promising approach to work with children exhibiting

difficulties as well as a vehicle within the structure of developmental

counseling. Allport (1968, as cited in Schaefer, 1993) offered a partial

explanation for the resurgence of interest in play with the observation that

the average life of most theoretical concepts spans about two decades. As

Schaefer (1993) suggested, "It seems time, then, for play therapy to be

viewed as new and exciting again" (p. 4).

Play therapy as an intervention

Landreth (1991) stated that play therapy can be an effective

intervention for all children except those who may be completely autistic or

the out-of-contact schizophrenic. Various behavioral problems have been

directly addressed in the literature. Among the behaviors listed by Landreth

(1991) are: alleviation of hair pulling, amelioration of elective mutism,

improved emotional adjustment of children of divorced parents, improved

emotional adjustment of abused and neglected children, reduction of stress

and anxiety in hospitalized children, correction of poor reading performance,

increased academic performance in learning disabled children, correction of

speech problems, decreased emotional and intellectual problems of the

mentally retarded, amelioration of stuttering, relieving of psychosomatic

difficulties, and the reduction of separation anxiety. Of particular are the

studies that demonstrate a decrease in aggressive, acting-out behaviors

(Willock, 1983); better social and emotional adjustment (Andriola, 1944;

Axline, 1948, 1964; Baruch, 1952; Miller, 1947; Moustakas, 1951; Pothier,

1967; Schiffer, 1957), and improved self-concept (Bleck & Bleck, 1982).

In 1964, Virginia Axline published Dibs In Search of Self, the account

of a child's work in play therapy. The book related the story of a young

child, Dibs, and illustrated the child-centered techniques used by Axline.

Not intended to be a report to professionals, the book did serve as an

introduction to the world of the child in play therapy. Similarly, Dorothy

Baruch (1952) related the story of Kenneth to sensitize parents as well as

others who work with children to the fact that children have strong

emotions that can cause difficulty with adjustment. Through play therapy,

these problems of adjustment may be overcome.

There is no lack of accounts of play therapy in the professional

literature. Axline (1948) reported the results of experimental work done

utilizing group play therapy with a group of four children, ages six, seven,

and eight, who were having difficulty adjusting to other children. The

children were described as either extremely withdrawn or aggressively

antisocial (Axline, 1948). Results of this work indicated that the children

learned to adjust to each other in a free play situation. Further, Axline

reported a considerable diminishing of destructive, aggressive play as time

passed (Axline, 1948).

Willock (1983) presented an approach to working with an aggressive,

acting-out child. The play therapy intervention was conducted over a period

of two years, one year of which was in a residential setting. Willcock

reported that although the treatment was terminated prematurely, the child

was successful in achieving an acceptable level of adjustment.

Moustakas (1951) utilized play therapy with children who were facing

new family experiences which they perceived as threatening such as the

arrival of a new sibling (Moustakas, 1951). The arrival of a new baby in the

family is a common source of confusion, aggression, stress, and anxiety for

children. Moustakas (1951) reported therapeutic gains in terms of

emotional insight and feelings of security and comfort within themselves.

Schiffer (1957) related an early attempt to work with small groups of

young children in the school setting who were exhibiting emotional

disturbances that could not be addressed in the classroom. The cases

reported were of children in the second and third grade. While no statistical

data was offered, the author reported that many of the children

demonstrated improved functioning in the classroom and in the

neighborhood as a result of their participation in the play group (Schiffer,


Bleck and Bleck (1982) related the results of a play group for

disruptive children in a public elementary school setting. These researchers

were able to increase the self-concepts and decrease disruptive behavior

through a ten session small group approach featuring play.

Play therapy and plav counseling

Most of the literature of play therapy is found in the field of

psychology. With roots going back to Hermine Hug-Hellmuth's use of play

in a counseling relationship in 1921, play therapy is the terminology most

commonly found in the literature. However, as developmental counseling

became accepted in the elementary schools, the term "therapy" took on a

negative connotation. The original use of the term referred to working with

children who were disturbed or maladjusted. Since the developmental

model of counseling addresses the normal, developmental concerns of all

children in the schools, many questioned whether the use of the term

"therapy" was appropriate in the school setting. Dinkmeyer and Muro

(1977), early developmental proponents, cautioned school counselors that

although there is an overlap in the techniques and basic philosophies of play

therapy and counseling using play media, there is a difference in the two

systems in terms of the children served. Others, such as Hoffman (1993),

do not object to the use of the term play therapy as a counselor

intervention. Hoffman pointed out that although the terminology is

different, there really isn't a difference between play therapy and play

counseling. The use of the term play therapy has become an increasingly

popular way of referring to the elementary counselor's use of play

techniques for working with children (Barlow, Strother, & Landreth, 1985;

Landreth, 1987).

Regardless of the terminology used to describe the process of using

play and play media in school counseling programs, the use of play therapy

has received more attention in the literature than has play counseling or play

media. Landreth, Homeyer and Bratton (1993) compiled a bibliography of

the literature in play therapy. More than one thousand, eight hundred titles

of books, journal articles, dissertations, and unpublished documents were

included in the volume dating back to 1933. This reference source

indicated that it was 1969 before an article appeared in a journal published

by the American Counseling Association. In the years from 1970 to 1979,

four articles appeared in the counseling literature that addressed play while

over seventy published works appeared in the professional literature of

psychology and related disciplines. The early 1980s produced three articles

in the major journals of the American Counseling Association. In 1987, the

journal Elementary School Guidance & Counseling devoted a special issue to

counseling using expressive arts, and included articles on the use of play

therapy and various play media in the elementary school. In the early

1990s, play and play media began to receive attention with an entire issue

of Elementary School Guidance & Counseling devoted to play in October,

1993. However, since that issue, only three additional articles have

appeared in the same journal. The School Counselor, another publication of

the American Counseling Association has published only one article on the

use of play since 1993. The Journal of Counseling and Development has

devoted only two articles to this area in the last three years. It would

appear that the use of play as a counseling intervention has not reached the

popularity that play therapy has held in the mental health field, perhaps

accounting for the continued emphasis on play therapy rather than play

media or play counseling.

Play Counseling in the Elementary School

The use of play in the elementary grades is not new. Kindergarten

and primary grade teachers have utilized various play media such as

puppets, art, and creative dramatics as teaching tools in the classroom.

Further, they have recognized that play helps children build confidence in

dealing with academic and interpersonal environments. The elementary

school counselor builds upon the natural use of play with the young child.

As Landreth (1983) indicated, it would seem that it is not a question of

whether the elementary school counselor should use play, but how play

should be used in elementary schools.

Until the 1960s, play therapy was used mainly by private practitioners

who were treating children considered to be maladjusted. However, during

the 1960s and early 1970s, play counseling became a popular form of

intervention in the schools. Many counselor educators such as Landreth

(1969), Myrick and Haldin (1971), and Waterland (1970) began to publish

their experiences using play as a therapeutic vehicle. To these and other

educators, play in the school setting was helpful in addressing a broad

range of developmental needs of all children, not just children who were

considered maladjusted.

Several factors contributed to the increased use of play techniques in

the elementary schools. The development of guidance and counseling

programs in the elementary grades added many counselors to the primary

level. Among those professionals seeking a developmentally appropriate

approach, there was the realization that the use of a primarily verbal

approach would not be effective with children. Words are often foreign to a

child whose natural means of communication is the world of play. Children

below the age of eleven years may experience great difficulty expressing

their emotional world by verbal means. Reliance on speech alone confines

children to a potentially awkward and restrictive level of communication.

Given this developmental factor, Landreth (1993) advised elementary school

counselors to leave their verbally bound approach to communication and go

to the level of communication natural to children, play.

A primary objective of elementary schools is to provide opportunities

for children to develop intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally.

Play approaches can prepare children to profit from the learning

experiences. Children cannot be made to learn. Even the most effective

teachers cannot teach children who are not yet ready. Play counseling

serves as an adjunct to learning by helping children maximize their

opportunities to learn (Landreth, 1993). Play offers children an opportunity

to resolve emotional and social issues that may be interfering with academic

progress (Campbell, 1993b). It is through the process of play that the

counselor can touch the emotional world of children (Landreth, 1993).

Elementary school counselors use play and play media as therapeutic

tools to meet a broad range of developmental needs of all children, not just

those who are having difficulties. Developmental educators realize that

counseling should sometimes be playful and activities that are fun can be

used to motivate children to give full attention to serious thoughts. Play

may be used on an individual basis, in small groups, and in classrooms.

Further, play may be used by elementary school counselors as an

educational tool to help children explore concepts, develop self-awareness,

appreciate each others' positive differences, and practice new behaviors

(Campbell, 1993b).

One of the first guidance programs, Develooina Understanding of Self

and Others (DUSO), was developed by Dinkmeyer and Dinkmeyer (1970).

This program uses puppets, music, and drama to help children develop a

positive self-image. Campbell (1993b) noted that the last thirty years have

seen increasing use of guidance materials that use play media to motivate

and involve children in the counseling process.

Play counseling in the elementary school has a developmental focus.

It addresses the normal growth and understanding of self in children who

may be experiencing a variety of emotional stresses such as death, divorce,

or new siblings. The use of play allows children to work out these issues

which then enables learning to take place more efficiently in the classroom.

Elementary counselors use play because it takes advantage of children's

interest, creativity, and spontaneity and provides them with a

developmentally appropriate medium for self-expression (Campbell, 1993b).

Play media

Many forms of play and play media have been used with children.

The play media used in this study involved art, clay, creative dramatics,

games, guided imagery, and puppets.

Nickerson (1983) described art as "instant graphic communication

directed toward someone or the self as an expression of emotion" (p. 236).

The use of art as a play media intervention provides a nonthreatening

approach by which the child can express concerns that are sometimes

difficult to verbalize (Gladding, 1992). Art encourages creativity and self-

expression. Further, the completed art production can be used as a vehicle

for the exploration of feelings, ideas, and concerns (Nickerson, 1983).

Clay is a medium that "almost asks the child to do things with it"

(Gardner, 1994, p. 20). Since it takes little skill to work with clay, it is

appealing to a child. Like art, clay provides a nonthreatening way by which

the child can expresses feelings and concerns. Clay provides a safe outlet

for aggressive feelings since the clay often requires the child to pound,

poke, squeeze, or cut to achieve the intended form (Webb, 1991). Further,

clay can be used as a concrete expression of an idea. For example, a child

might be asked to make a gift to give to someone in the group. Using the

clay, the child could make a puppy to give to a friend, providing a more

concrete meaning than words or a drawing.

Elementary aged children often benefit from creative dramatics such

as role playing (Gladding, 1992). The use of creative dramatics allows

children to explore alternative behaviors to a situation and gain insight into

experiences. Acting out a situation can often help children see it in a new

light (Lansdown & Walker, 1991). By maintaining a pretend, or "as if"

approach, children are able to explore different alternative behaviors without

risking embarrassment or shame. According to Gardner (1993), most

children enjoy plays and will welcome the chance to act in them. Play

acting a situation of significance can provide children with a more

meaningful experience than merely talking about it.

The use of games in play counseling generally refers to card games,

board games, and fine and gross motor games. Games tend to be separate

from real life (Reid, 1993). Children generally enjoy games and often

counselors are able to deal with significant experiences in game language

(Gladding, 1993). Similarly, Gardner (1993) stated that games may be

therapeutic in their own right because pleasure is generally therapeutic.

One of the most therapeutic factors in game play involves the

socialization between players (Webb, 1991). Since the game is removed

from real life, children are able to learn new skills needed to interact with

others in an enjoyable and nonthreatening way. As children relax and lose

themselves in the game, they often begin to talk about feelings and ideas

that are important to them (Reid, 1993). Further, since games contain

rules, children learn to conform to rules, cooperate with others, and

demonstrate self-discipline in waiting for their turns (Webb, 1991).

Guided imagery has been used for many purposes. Myrick and

Myrick (1993) cited various authors who used guided imagery to increase

artistic expression, personal awareness, and concentration. Teachers have

also used guided imagery as part of their curriculum to help children retain

information presented. Further, guided imagery has been shown to be

effective in helping students to remain on task and control their classroom

behaviors (Anderson, 1980; Matthews, 1986; Oldfield, 1986; Oldfield &

Petosa, 1986). Gladding (1993) addressed the use of guided imagery to

raise self-esteem. He suggested that elementary school children with low

self-esteem could enhance their self-concept through guided imagery.

The use of guided imagery as a developmental counseling intervention

can be an effective tool in helping children learn more about themselves and

others and to help achieve more in school (Myrick & Myrick, 1993). Guided

imagery can provide a structure whereby children can examine common

concerns as well as specific troubling issues (Myrick & Myrick, 1993).

Through the use of a planned script, the counselor leads the students

through school-related images and experiences. Following the guided

imagery, the experience is discussed with the students. The learning value

of the experience is found in the processing or discussion of the activity

(Myrick & Myrick, 1993). Through discussion of feelings accompanying the

experience, as well as specific images that were evoked during the guided

imagery, children can be helped to look at their functioning in the school

setting and improve school success.

Woltman (1994) explained that puppets occupy a special place in the

play activities of the child. A major benefit of using puppets in counseling is

that puppets can be an effective vehicle for self-expression. Puppets

provide a safe way to express feelings and allow the child to communicate

concerns in a comfortable way (Carter, 1987). Since it is the puppet that is

"talking", the child is able to express feelings in a nonthreatening way

(Landreth, 1991).

Structured counseling

The process of play counseling may take place with individuals or in

small groups, and may be non-structured or structured in approach. In a

non-structured approach, children are free to select their play medium from

a variety of items (such as puppets or clay), set their own rules, and use the

playthings and the time in any way they wish (Carter, 1987). The counselor

attempts to establish a relationship of trust and acceptance by following the

lead of the child as he expresses himself with toys (Myrick & Haldin, 1971).

This child-centered approach however, may be time consuming and ill-fitted

to today's counselor caseloads.

In a structured approach, the counselor is more assertive and

directive. The counselor designs the activity, chooses the play medium, and

makes the rules (Carter, 1987). Through the structured use of activities

such as drawing, clay sculpture, puppetry, creative dramatics, games, and

guided imagery, the goals of an intervention can be addressed in a short-

term approach.

Peer Facilitators

A peer facilitator is a student who uses helping skills and concepts to

assist other students and sometimes adults to think about ideas and

feelings, to explore alternatives to situations, and to make responsible

decisions (Myrick, 1992; Myrick & Bowman, 1981b; Tobias & Seagraves,

1994). Similarly, Tindall (1989) wrote that peer counselors are

nonprofessionals who use counseling skills to help their peers.

A search of the literature revealed that there are many terms used to

identify peer facilitators: peer counselors, peer helpers, peer leaders, peer

mentors, peer pals, big brothers, big sisters, and peer tutors (Myrick,

Highland, & Sabella, 1995). For the purpose of this study, these terms are

considered to be synonymous with the term peer facilitator.

The idea of using students to help other students is not new. Its use

can be traced back to the one-room schoolhouses of the 1930s where the

older, more skilled students helped the younger, less skilled students

(Campbell, 1993a; Myrick 1993). School counselors were among the first

to recognize that peer helpers could extend developmental guidance

services to students at all grade levels (Myrick, 1992; Myrick, Highland, &

Sabella, 1995).

There was some early resistance to the concept of peer counseling.

Much of the early opposition came from parents, teachers, administrators,

and counselors who objected to the term peer counselor. These people

were skeptical that youngsters could actually counsel. Further, the term

"counseling" has been used synonomously with therapy. Therefore, many

parents and educators were resistant to the programs. The term "peer

facilitator" was introduced to describe the role and function of youngsters

serving as helpers. Peer facilitator communicates what students are asked

to do when helping others and provides enough flexibility to incorporate

several helping roles and functions (Myrick, 1993). The concept of the peer

facilitator has become viewed as a valuable part of a developmental

guidance program rather than a replacement for the skilled professional.

The American School Counselor Association first recommended that peer

counseling be part of a school's guidance services in 1978. In 1984, the

ASCA changed the term peer counselor to peer facilitator and upheld their

previous recommendation. As recently as 1990, the position statement was


In the 1960s, the idea of using a student as a helper became very

popular, partly as a result of an increasing problem with drug use among

school aged children. Counselors as well as other educators searched for

ways to reach students before they became drug abusers. Since surveys

during that time indicated that students with problems turned to their peers,

then counselors and coaches (Campbell, 1993a; Myrick & Folk, 1991), the

idea of peer helping began to flourish, especially at the high school level.

As the use of peer helping programs expanded, peer facilitators were trained

to serve in many roles such as leading preventive guidance groups with

elementary students, helping cancer projects in hospitals, and working with

incarcerated youth (Sanborn & Myrick, 1983).

Peer helping spread to the elementary grades in the 1970s.

Counselors trained older students to work with younger children in a variety

of projects such as orientation programs for new students, special friends,

small and large group leaders, and teacher and counselor assistants. Since

the early 1970s, hundreds of articles have been written in professional

journals as well as popular magazines describing successful peer facilitator

programs and substantiating their effectiveness with a wide variety of

problems including drop-out prevention, increasing appropriate school

behavior, and improving positive attitudes toward school (Campbell, 1993a;

Tindall, 1989).

In 1991, Myrick and Folk introduced the term "peervention" which

emphasized the idea that there were interventions that peer facilitators

might initiate that could be considered prevention projects. Such areas as

preventing interpersonal and social problems and helping others to get the

most out of school are two areas where peers can make a positive impact.

This idea follows the premise of the developmental model where concerns

and issues are addressed before they become a problem.

Peer facilitator programs have been successfully implemented in the

high school setting for over thirty years (Tindall & Gray, 1984). However, it

has just been in the last twenty years that students in the lower grades

have been systematically trained as peer helpers. Currently, peer helpers

are assisting younger students to think about ideas and feelings, explore

alternatives to situations, and make responsible decisions (Myrick &

Bowman, 1981b). Bowman and Myrick (1987) reported many benefits

when students participate as peer facilitators including improved academic

performance and improved classroom behavior.

Myrick, Highland, and Sabella (1995) pointed out that although only a

few quantitative studies exist in the literature, the findings have been

positive. For example, Briskin and Anderson (1973) obtained positive

results when sixth-grade students served as peer helpers in working with

disruptive third graders. In a 1987 study, Bowman and Myrick found

evidence that fifth grade students were effective in improving the classroom

behaviors and school attitudes of second and third grade students who were

considered to be exhibiting behavioral problems in the classroom. Foster-

Harrison (1995) cited studies providing evidence of increased school

attendance (Fantuzzo, Polite, & Grayson, 1990; Tobias, 1992), and

decreased disruptive or inappropriate behavior (Greenwood, Carta, & Hall,

1988; Hymel, 1986; Tobias, 1992). Each of these works has relevance to

the present study.

There are basically four peer helper roles: student assistant, tutor,

special friend, and small group leader. The student assistant may be the

oldest and most traditional helping role that students have performed.

These students work with teachers, administrators, and counselors in roles

such as answering telephones, greeting visitors, distribution of materials, or

other routine office or classroom tasks. Although there is some interaction

with peers, this role is generally concerned with indirect assistance to peers

(Myrick, Highland, & Sabella, 1995).

The tutor works with peers to improve academic performance. Peer

tutors provide a supportive relationship that begins by acknowledging what

the person is experiencing and how feelings and ideas about self enter into

study habits and skills (Myrick, Highland, & Sabella, 1995). Research has

shown increases in academic performance of both the students being

tutored and the tutor.

When a peer facilitator works as a special friend, the emphasis is on

developing a close helping relationship with another student who may need

support or just need to know that someone cares about him or her. This

relationship can make an important difference for students who may feel

uninvolved, left out, or alienated from school (Myrick, Highland, & Sabella,


Small group leaders have historically been used to make learning

experiences for large groups more personal and involving. In a

developmental guidance program, large group sessions are common. Often

class sizes are over thirty students. The use of peer facilitators as small

group leaders allows everyone the opportunity to participate. Myrick,

Highland, and Sabella (1995) support the use of a trained peer facilitator as

a small group leader. When a peer facilitator is leading a small group,

members are more likely to stay on task, take turns sharing, and accomplish

group goals.

Peer facilitation has been shown to have desirable effects in various

programs and projects. Mathur and Rutherford (1991b) reviewed the

literature to evaluate the success of peer facilitated interventions to improve

the social skills of children and adolescents exhibiting behavior disorders.

Twenty-one articles were reviewed. The investigators concluded that peer

mediated approaches were successful in improving behavior.

Bowman (1982) investigated the effects of third grade peer

facilitators who were paired with classmates considered to be disruptive.

After a combination of individual and small group meetings, significant

positive changes in classroom behaviors and attitudes about school were

noted for the paired, disruptive students as compared to student behaviors

and attitudes in a control group.

Canning (1985) utilized fifth grade peer facilitators as special friends

to younger students in a play situation. The objectives of this program were

increased self-awareness, improved interpersonal relationships, increased

feelings of self-worth, and enhanced learning.

Huey and Rank (1984) conducted a study of the effects of group

assertiveness training on adolescent boys who were considered aggressive.

Their results suggested that professional counselors and peer facilitators

were equally effective in teaching skills and reducing aggressive classroom

behavior. Further, it was found that participants in the study were equally

pleased with peers or professional counselors as group leaders.

Fouts (1985) investigated the effects of a unit led by eighth grade

boys on the study skills, self-concepts, school attitudes, classroom

behaviors, and academic achievement of sixth-grade students. The results

of this study indicated an improvement in self-concept and school attitudes.

Bowman and Myrick (1987) paired trained fifth grade peer facilitators

with second and third grade students who were disruptive in their

classrooms. These investigators found a significant increase in appropriate

classroom behavior among the paired students. Similarly, Tobias (1992)

studied the effectiveness of eighth grade peer facilitators working with sixth

grade disruptive students. It was found that peers were able to effectively

help decrease disruptive behavior.


Children who are disruptive in the classroom have a harder time

learning and may interfere with the learning of other children as well. The

teaching process becomes more difficult as the teacher must spend more

time handling the disruptions. Disruptive behavior is a source of stress and

frustration for children, teachers, and other school personnel. Research has

demonstrated that peer facilitated interventions have been successful in

helping counselors reach more children and in achieving research goals.

Further, play has been effective in raising self-esteem and reducing

disruptive behavior with elementary school students.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a

developmental guidance unit featuring play media on disruptive elementary

school students. Specifically, this study focused on the use of play

counseling strategies with groups of fourth and fifth grade students who

were identified as exhibiting disruptive classroom behaviors. The impact of

the unit on the children participating was examined in terms of students'

acting-out behavior, peer-relationships, self-concepts, and classroom

behaviors. The unit was delivered three experimental conditions: 1) a

counselor-led play group; 2) a peer facilitator-led play group; and 3) a

control group which received no planned intervention.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a

developmental guidance unit featuring play media on disruptive elementary

school students. More specifically, this study focused on the use of play

counseling strategies with fourth and fifth grade groups of children who

were identified as exhibiting disruptive classroom behaviors. The impact of

the unit on the children participating was examined in terms of students'

acting-out behavior, peer-relationships, self-concepts, and classroom

behaviors. The investigation involved three experimental groups: 1) a

counselor-led play group; 2) a peer facilitator-led play group; and 3) a

control group which received no planned intervention.

The population and sample, research design, hypotheses, the

developmental unit, leadership selection and training, dependent variables,

and instrumentation are discussed in this chapter.

Population and Samole


The population for this study consisted of six hundred sixty-four

fourth and fifth grade students attending the single intermediate school in

the South Country School District in Suffolk County, New York. As of

February 1, 1997, the total elementary school (K-5) population in the district

was one thousand, nine hundred, of which three hundred thirty-six were

enrolled in the fourth grade and three hundred twenty-eight were enrolled in

the fifth grade. These totals represent only students enrolled in regular

classes; special education classes were not included.

South Country Schools is located on the south shore of Long Island,

approximately fifty miles east of Manhattan. It serves the communities of

Bellport, Brookhaven Hamlet, East Patchogue, Medford, and North Bellport.

These communities represent a broad spectrum of socioeconomic

backgrounds and ethnic groups resulting in a student population that

reflects a diversity of cultural influences. The majority, approximately sixty

percent, of the school population is Caucasian. Approximately twenty-eight

percent of the district population is African-American or Hispanic.

Approximately ten percent of the district population is comprised of

students of Asian descent. Another two percent of the population comes

from other minority groups.


The Frank P. Long School serves as the fourth and fifth grade center

in the South Country Schools. The administration was invited and agreed to

participate in the study. All twenty-three teachers of non-special education

fourth and fifth grade classes were invited to participate. Eighteen teachers,

twelve fourth grade and six fifth grade, agreed to participate and were

asked to identify students whom they believed were exhibiting disruptive

behaviors. A descriptive paragraph defining "disruptive behavior" was given

to each teacher for use in identifying students. Seventy-two disruptive

fourth and fifth grade students were identified and invited to take part in the

study. Each identified student was randomly assigned a number beginning

with 01 and ending 72. Of these students, sixty-five returned the

necessary Institutional Review Board consent forms and using a table of

random numbers, were assigned to one of the experimental groups: the

counselor-led developmental unit (El); the peer-led developmental unit (E2);

or control (E3). Thus, twenty-four students were assigned to the four

counselor-led (El) groups, twenty-four to the three peer-led (E2) groups,

and the remaining seventeen to the control groups (E3). Classroom

teachers completed a Walker Problem Behavior Identification Checklist

(WPBIC) and a Disruptive Behavior Rating Scale (DBRS) for each of the

identified students.

Students identified by a psychologist or other qualified mental health

professional as ADHD or Conduct Disordered, or taking medication for a

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