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Adlerian Play Therapy

Program Description

Adlerian Play therapy (AdPT) is a school-based treatment program targeting children in first through third grades who exhibit problem behaviors, as reported by parents and/or teachers. The program is designed to help children who exhibit behaviors such as aggression, impulsivity, inattention, rule breaking, distractibility, and other undesirable conduct, which are thought to interfere with their ability to build positive relationships with peers and adults.

The program uses both directive and nondirective techniques to achieve the goals of AdPT. Sessions are designed to help children move from destructive to constructive behavior; foster their ability to connect with others; increase their willingness to take academic and personal risks; enhance their belief that they are capable and matter; increase their social interest; adjust any self-defeating beliefs about self, others, and the world; reduce discouragement; and help them acknowledge personal assets. For children who struggle in school, specific behavioral goals include improvement in their ability to stay on task in the classroom and a reduction in their disruptive behaviors.

AdPT is based on individual psychology concepts and principles, which describe people as socially embedded, goal-directed, subjective, and creative beings who must be understood from a holistic perspective. AdPT comprises four phases of sessions between the therapist and the child. The first phase, which lasts an average of two to four sessions, focuses on the therapist building a relationship with the child. During the second phase, the therapist explores the child’s lifestyle; this ranges from between four and six sessions. The third phase, usually between eight and 12 sessions, involves the therapist directly and indirectly guiding the child’s choices in a variety of activities. The fourth phase normally lasts an average of eight sessions, and the therapist actively teaches new skills and encourages a change in attitudes and perceptions. Adlerian Play Therapists, who are typically trained mental health or school counseling professionals, use play materials, art, metaphor, and storytelling to communicate with the children.

Program Snapshot
Evidence Ratings
Disruptive Behavior Disorders and Symptoms
Program Contact
Terry Kottman, Ph.D.
Encouragement Zone
1117 Washington Street
Cedar Falls, IA 50613


Dissemination/Implementation Contact
Kristin K. Meany-Walen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
University of Northern Iowa
Latham Hall 235
Cedar Falls, IA 50614


Program Type
Mental health treatment


6-12 (Childhood)

Geographic Locations

School / Classroom

Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino

Implementation materials available
Dissemination materials available