Governors State University College of Education Workshop - Utilizing Play Therapy to Support Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement Banner

Dr. TJ Schoonover, Assistant Professor, Counseling and Higher Education, Northern Illinois University

On June 16, 2023, the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) offered a Play Therapy Workshop featuring Dr. TJ Schoonover and Dr. Eliana Gil, both experts in the field of Play Therapy. Dr. Schoonover discussed how play therapy can be used to assist children and adolescents to develop healthier emotional and behavioral skills. He then invited a workshop attendee to help him simulate a play therapy session. Watch this workshop session here.

For more information about CEHD’s education, psychology, and counseling programs, please visit the CEHD webpage.

Learn more about CEHD's programs

Watch the Play Therapy Workshop

Additional Play Therapy Resources

International Journal of Play Therapy Articles

Agarwal, S. M., Rodríguez Delgado, M., & Tapia-Fuselier, J. L., Jr. (2022). Meeting the needs of children through telemental health: Application for rural mental health using child–parent relationship therapy. International Journal of Play Therapy, 31(4), 216–227.

"Children living in rural communities can have higher levels of mental health needs due to limited access to developmentally appropriate care. Often the lack of play therapy training or access to mental health resources makes it difficult for children or families in rural areas to receive care. The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has forced virtual methods of service delivery to increase around the world, which provide opportunities for mental health professionals to reach rural communities and families.”

Brammer, M. K., Stark, C., Suri, T., & Brown, E. C. (2023). Childhood suicide: A call to action for play therapists. International Journal of Play Therapy.

“As rates of children attempting and dying by suicide accelerate in the United States, it is imperative that play therapists increase their competency to address childhood suicidality. This article provides evidence-based data on this phenomenon and is a call to action inviting play therapists to cultivate awareness, knowledge, skills, and advocacy competencies to address childhood suicide and create positive change.”

Davis, E. S., Loeb, D., & Lee, T. (2021). Implementing play and language therapy to work with preschool children with language and behavioral issues. International Journal of Play Therapy, 30(2), 157–166.

“When integrated with developmental language strategies, play therapy skills can potentially address communication, social, and behavioral needs of preschool children with comorbid language and behavior issues.”

Hudspeth, E. F. (2016). Play therapy applications with diverse cultures. International Journal of Play Therapy, 25(3), 113.

"In this special issue, evidence is offered about how play therapy is beneficial in various cultural settings, during periods of grief, and in the aftermath of trauma."

Jeon, M.-H., & Myers, C. E. (2023). Successful strategies for parent engagement in play therapy: Voices through humanistic approaches. International Journal of Play Therapy, 32(3), 156–167.

“The findings strongly suggest that the first step in working with the parents of child clients should be building a relationship with parents through a humanistic and empathetic approach. Specific strategies to elicit parent engagement are shared in the findings.”

Llamas, J. D., & Alvarado, C. (2023). More than just a game: Using Lotería in play therapy with Mexican/Mexican American clients. International Journal of Play Therapy, 32(1), 51–62.

Discussion of “how the game Lotería helps to address the needs of this community, outlining the theoretical underpinnings of the approach, providing a detailed didactic application of the game, as well as presenting a case study to illustrate these components. This is all framed within the context of the pandemic, attending to both in-person and virtual applications.”

Normandin, L., Bate, J., Bégin, M., Fonagy, P., & Ensink, K. (2023). Play completion predicts fewer child psychological difficulties: A longitudinal study of mentalizing processes. International Journal of Play Therapy, 32(2), 122–133.

“The study provides the first longitudinal evidence of the important role of pretend play narrative completion in predicting less internalizing and externalizing difficulties. The findings have important clinical implications for play therapists. It suggests that interventions that encourage children to elaborate and complete their play narratives could facilitate agency and psychological adjustment, as well as recovery after trauma.”

Villarreal-Davis, C. E., Watts-Figueroa, C. M., & Turner, R. (2021). Serving together: Play therapy to foster attachment for grieving military families. International Journal of Play Therapy, 30(4), 231–243.

“Military-connected children are forced to manage the unique challenges that characterize military life… In order to promote a secure attachment after a combat-related loss, military-connected children would benefit from a family-based and attachment-based play therapy approach that centers on rebuilding the parent–child relationship, repairing disruptions and ruptures in parental attachment, and restoring attachment bonds.”

Yazdanipour, M., Ashori, M., & Abedi, A. (2022). Impact of group theraplay on the social–emotional assets and resilience in children with hearing loss. International Journal of Play Therapy, 31(2), 107–118.

“Results revealed that GT significantly influenced social competence, self-regulation, responsibility, and empathy in children with hearing loss. Therefore, participants who received GT showed a significant increase in those social–emotional assets and resilience. The findings highlight the importance of GT training for social–emotional assets and resilience in children with hearing loss.”

International Journal of Play Therapy, Special Issue: Play Therapy in Schools

This special issue – Play Therapy in Schools - has the following articles:

  • • Child-centered play therapy and social–emotional competencies of African American children: A randomized controlled trial.
  • • Effects of child-centered play therapy (CCPT) on disruptive behavior of at-risk preschool children in Head Start.
  • • Child-centered play therapy’s impact on academic achievement: A longitudinal examination in at-risk elementary school students.
  • • The efficacy of child–teacher relationship training as an early childhood mental health intervention in Head Start programs.
  • • A phenomenological study of Theraplay groups within a middle school.
  • • Does age make a difference when incorporating music as a rhythmic-mediated component in a theraplay-based program to facilitate attunement of preschool children with social impairment?
  • • Transgender and gender-expansive affirming child-centered play therapy.
  • • Implementing play and language therapy to work with preschool children with language and behavioral issues.


Jarareh, J., Mohammadi, A., Nader, M., & Moosavian, S. A. (2016). The impact of group play therapy on creativity and control of aggression in preschool children. Cogent Psychology, 3(1).

"The major findings of the research indicate that group play therapy in preschool children’s creativity and aggression has a significant effect on the level of 0.01 and it enhances creativity and reduces aggression in preschool children."

How Play Therapy Treats and Benefits Children and Some Adults

"Explanation of what play therapy is, how play therapy treats and benefits children and some adults. It shares the benefits and different techniques that can be used."

5 Benefits of Play Therapy

"Play therapy can benefit all children, especially those with mental health issues or those who’ve experienced abuse or neglect."


Trauma & Play Therapy: Holding Hard Stories, Paris Goodyear-Brown, TEDxNashville

“How do children heal from trauma? Paris Goodyear-Brown, play therapy and trauma expert, takes us on a journey through the stories of children from hard places, the neuroscience of play, and the importance of each of us in bearing witness to the hurt.”

Play is the Child’s Language: Play Therapy, Joanne Wicks, TEDxDarwin

“All behaviour is communication and children are often unable to verbalise their experiences and strong emotions in the same way that they can express them through play. Learning how to speak their language, the language of play can provide access into a child’s world which is often left silent.”

Play Therapy Session” Working on Feelings with Candy Land Game

“In this video, Dr. Knapp uses the Candy Land game as an initial assessment tool in a beginning session to assess thoughts and feelings that the client is able to share and express. Dr. Knapp sets up the session to model the feelings for the client and to then take turns while playing and engaging in the Candy Land Game.”

Student Traum Rates are Higher Than Ever. How Play Therapy Can Help

“The Center for Child Counseling provides mental health services for schools across Palm Beach County, Fla. At its Boca Raton child development center, students learn to manage their emotions and build their communication skills through play therapy sessions. At a time when trauma rates are higher than ever, they hope this early intervention will mitigate long-term mental health issues.”

How One Family Uses Play Therapy to Address Trauma, Education Week

“The Hughes’ family fostered their daughters for three years before adopting them in 2020. With their adoption came stability, but also loss, the recognition that they wouldn’t be going back to their biological family. To help them work through their many emotions, and the trauma they’ve experienced, the girls were referred to the Center for Child Counseling, where they’ve learned through play therapy how to talk about and work through difficult emotions.”

Play Therapy Technique: How About You?

“Rapport-building technique for child and family therapy sessions.”

Play Therapy Works! Association for Play Therapy

“This video introduces and promotes the value of play, play therapy, credentialed play therapists, and membership in the Association for Play Therapy.”

Play Therapy Intervention for Self-Regulation, PESI, Inc

“Many children with big behaviors need help learning how to regulate themselves more quickly or more effectively...To do so, we want them to take advantage of all sorts of sensory-soothing experiences while also learning how to pay attention to their sense of interoception, or what their bodies are telling them.This intervention can be particularly helpful for children who struggle to close their eyes and relax due to the fear of impending danger.”