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Research Policies and Results


PTI’s research policies and activities are based on our systemic view of play therapy practice to ensure the wellbeing of children. This shows the importance of the evidence base upon which our competency framework, the foundation of training, learning and practice is constructed. PTI’s approach to play therapy practice is evidence based.

In turn the evidence base is updated by original research and practice based evidence.  The main emphasis of our current research programme is practice based evidence which is stored and analysed in the SEPACTO national database of play therapy clinical outcomes. This uses data derived from practice as a by product of clinical governanceThe outcomes have been demonstrated to be replicable since 2008.  It is also used to justify funding on play therapy services.  When PTI was formed there was a dearth of quantitative research upon the effectiveness of play and creative arts therapies. The latest findings (are based on over 8000 cases which show that between 74% and 83%  of children receiving play therapy from PTI Members exhibit a positive change. This continuous research programme places PTI firmly in the lead of play therapy research worldwide

Summary of Results

The Latest PTI Research Results – August 2011

A summary of the results, presented in more detail in a PTI/PTI paper ‘An Effective Way of Promoting Children’s Wellbeing and Alleviating Emotional, Behavioural and Mental Health Problems – the Latest Research’ shows that between 74% and 83% of children receiving play therapy, delivered to PTI/PTI standards, show a positive change.

The more severe the problems the greater the percentage of children showing a positive change. 74% for those with slight/moderate problems, 83% for those with severe problems

Age also has an effect on improvement: Generally speaking the younger the child the greater the percentage of children showing a positive change: 80% at age 6 – 71% at age 12 – early help is the most effective.

Girls show a higher improvement rate than boys, 79% compared to 73%.

The average cost of using play and creative arts therapies is estimated at £693 per child. This estimate is based upon an overall average of 15.4 sessions, applying a cost per session of £45. For every £1 invested annually in targeted services designed to catch problems early and prevent problems from reoccurring, society benefits by between £7.60 and £9.20. (National Economic Foundation 2011). Play and creative therapies should therefore give a notional return to society of at least £5267 in the longer term. However this does not give the full picture because there are many short term benefits, specific to the setting, for example: better academic results and less stress for teachers; more successful fostering placements; faster response to medical treatment.

The statistics in this report are based on analyses of data selected from a total database of 8026 cases, with 10,744 pre and post therapy observations by referrers and parents received from 507 PTI/PTI registered practitioners.

The full six page paper ‘An Effective Way of Promoting Children’s Wellbeing and Alleviating Emotional, Behavioural and Mental Health Problems – the Latest Research’ is available for you to download.

Future Directions

It is felt that the main objective, set some five years ago, that the research priority was quantitative research to establish the effectiveness of play therapy has now been achieved in the UK. Whilst this type of research will continue, especially in other countries to ascertain if there is a similar beneficial effect, there now needs to be a change of emphasis. We propose to develop three main areas:

  1. The proportional use and the benefit of the various creative arts media that make up the ‘Play Therapy Tool-Kit’
  2. The effectiveness of play and creative arts therapies upon various conditions such as trauma, forms of autisim, ADHD, anger etc
  3. Provide more encouragement and help, in the form of data, for individual qualiitative research projects that explore new areas

Please email your comments to Jeff Thomas – Director of Research at:

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