Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MA in Child Development

First Advisor

Cindy Puccio

Second Advisor

Patricia Hanley


A chronic illness diagnosis is a life altering event that induces stress and can greatly alter an individual's life. This is especially true for children as they are unable to comprehend what is happening to them. Child life specialists are trained professionals who aid hospitalized children with understanding and coping with their conditions. Child life specialists use a variety of therapeutic techniques to help their patients cope. Child-centered play therapy (CCPT) has been proven to help children work through and understand their emotional distress. This form of therapy allows the child to dictate the pace and content of the play they engage in during therapy and, thus, gives the child a sense of control. It is, however, unclear from the literature whether child life specialists engage their patients in child-led play. Through interviews, this study aims to find whether child life specialists working with chronically ill children, conduct play therapy through a child-led model. Two practitioners were interviewed and were asked questions aimed to gain insight into the child life field and how they formulate treatments for hospitalized children. These interviews were analyzed for mentions of child-led vs. adult directed play as well as for what type of play children engaged in. The analysis suggested that while child-led play was utilized and encouraged, adult directed play was necessary in a hospital setting. This study does suggest, however, that an additional session of child-led play therapy may be beneficial to hospitalized children as a non-directed outlet for their emotions and concerns.

Included in

Psychology Commons