Echoing teacher's voices : a study exploring teachers' perceptions of play, play therapy, and play therapy skills training
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There has been a growing amount of research on play therapy skills training both with parents and teachers. These studies revealed promising results on the effectiveness of play therapy skills training; however, a majority of the studies were quantitative in nature. The current study implemented a qualitative approach to exploring teachers’ beliefs about children’s play and play therapy by investigating the perceptions and experiences of a group of teacher participants who received play therapy skills training. Individual interviews were conducted and data analysis generated category themes to answer research questions. Findings suggested that the play therapy skills training had an impact on teachers, the child of focus, and the teacher-child relationships. The training led to changes in teacher participants’ perceptions of play, play therapy, and children, and a pattern seemed to emerge in the influence the training had on teachers. Teachers perceived changes in themselves in terms of awareness, attitudes, skills, and emotions. Teachers’ views of play appeared to be changed and shaped to be more consistent with the ideas of play therapy. Two of the four teachers reported observing positive changes in behaviors of the child of focus. Three of the teacher participants indicated changes in teacher-child relationships with the child of focus. Teachers seemed to generalize play therapy skills from the playroom to the classroom. Teachers perceived that using play therapy skills helped them build better relationships with children, interact with children more positively, manage the class more effectively, and ultimately reduce their stress and frustration. Overall, the play therapy skills training suggested positive results with teacher participants, the child of focus, and teacher-child relationships. However, there were also challenges, disadvantages, and constraints observed and perceived by the teachers. Challenging issues in applying play therapy skills in the classroom included the perceived difficulty of being both a teacher and a therapeutic agent to the child of focus, and finding an appropriate classroom balance between permissiveness and structure. Three of the four teacher participants expressed their desire and excitement to continue applying play therapy skills with other students in a new school year. Implications and limitations of the study, and recommendations for further research are discussed.