Decreasing Childhood Anxiety with Play Therapy and CBT

Andrea Driggs McLeod

Program Goals

The goal of this workshop is to provide participants with information about how to successfully implement play therapy and playful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approaches with children experiencing anxiety. Play Therapy is relationship-based and provides children with 1) the opportunity to self-direct; 2) the experience of control and mastery; and 3) the experience of a permissive environment and relationship in which they can access natural healing mechanisms such as post-trauma play.  Children who suffer from anxiety can benefit from opportunities to work with clinicians who are able to gain an understanding of the child’s perspective, experiences, and triggers. Clinicians who learn to utilize effective play therapy and playful CBT skills, are better able to both allow and encourage children to express and release affect, explore alternative coping skills to gain understanding and become more regulated, and begin to manage thoughts and emotions that can feel overwhelming or frightening.  This workshop will serve to develop and enhance participants’ skills to integrate and implement an integrated approach highlighting play therapy and CBT in their settings and amplify children’s exploration of the material they externalize, within a safe, predictable environment.  This program will teach participants the benefits of adding play therapy to their CBT services and vice versa, exploring how a fully integrated approach provides flexibility and playfulness while giving children useful strategies for coping with difficult thoughts, emotions, or behaviors.

Program Schedule

The schedule will consist of lecture, discussions, and experiential work.

9:00 – 9:30      Introductions and needs assessment:  Participant’s “wish list”

9:30 -10:45      Didactic presentation of basic play therapy and CBT skills, the relevance of phenomenological experiences, and basic principles to implementing a successful CBT-based play therapy practice.

10:45 -11:00    BREAK

11:00 -12:00    Experiential work with emphasis on integrating play therapy skills and goals to CBT techniques and vice versa

12:00 -  1:00     LUNCH

1:00 -  2:30     Didactic presentation highlighting the concepts of negative thought patterns, core beliefs, and cognitive distortions in child friendly and playful ways

2:30 -  2:45     BREAK

2:45 - 3:00      Didactic presentation highlighting themes and symbolic meaning in play

3:00 - 3:30      Wrap Up and Question

Course Objectives

By the end of the course participants will be able to:

  • Apply a minimum of two CBT principles into play therapy sessions
  • Demonstrate an understanding of three specific benefits of integrating play therapy and CBT principles
  • List two examples of how play therapy and CBT can be viewed as compatible
  • Identify a brain based approach to anxiety in child friendly language
  • Demonstrate knowledge of at least 3 ways the body gives clues that anxiety is on the rise.


Athena A. Drewes. Blending Play Therapy with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Evidence-Based and Other Effective Treatments and Techniques. 2009.

Dee Ray. Advanced Play Therapy: Essential Conditions, Knowledge, and Skills for Child Practice 1st Edition. 2011.

Judith S. Beck. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond 2nd Edition. 2011.

Schaefer, C.E., & Drewes, A.A. (Eds.). (2014). The therapeutic powers of play: 20 core agents of change. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Drewes, A.A. (2011). Integrating plat therapy theories into practice. In A.A. Drewes, S.C. Bratton, & C. Schaefer (Eds.), Integrative play therapy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

General Course Information

This course is limited to 20 participants and is designed to facilitate experiential work, group discussion, and review the present literature.  Participants will have ample opportunity to discuss their specific needs and clinical questions.  Participant feedback and participation will be sought out throughout the day.

Clinical case discussions will adhere to HIPPA regulations regarding client confidentiality.

Target audience is Mental Health Professionals, Social Workers, and Psychologists

The program is Beginning Level

This event is sponsored by Starbright Training Institute.  Starbright Training Institute is approved by the Association for Play Therapy to offer continuing education specific to play therapy (APT Provider No. 96-029).

Myriam Goldin, LCSW; RPT-S, is Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:  703-980-2886.  Email:   Web Page:

Complaints and Appeals:

Complaints against an Approved Provider should first be filed in writing with the Approved Provider directly for resolution. If satisfaction is not obtained, APT’s Continuing Education Coordinator should be contacted in writing to achieve a final resolution.

Grievance Policy

Starbright Training Institute seeks to ensure equitable treatment of every person and to make every attempt to resolve grievances in a fair manner. Please submit a written grievance to: Myriam Goldin, LCSW; RPT-S, Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:  703-980-2886.  Email:   Web Page:

Grievances would receive, to the best of our ability, corrective action in order to prevent further problems.

Accommodations for the Differently Abled

Starbright Training Institute’s training facilities are handicap accessible. Individuals needing special accommodations please contact the Director of Starbright Training Institute. See contact information above.

Course Instructor Contact Information

Name: Andrea McLeod

Bio: Andrea McLeod is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is a psychotherapist at Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, a group private practice in Fairfax, VA.  Ms. McLeod earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio and received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work (with a focus on Child and Family Mental Health) from the University of Maryland at Baltimore.  She is certified as a Child-Centered Play Therapist through the National Institute for Relationship Enhancement and is a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor (RPT-S) through the National Association for Play Therapy.  Ms. McLeod has training in Theraplay (Level 1) and is a Foundational Level Theraplay Practitioner. Andrea has also completed extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  She has a specialization in childhood trauma and works with very young children as well as elementary school aged children and teenagers. Ms. McLeod continues to dynamically share her knowledge and passion for working with children as a supervisor, colleague, and frequent presenter on play therapy topics.



Phone: 703-8527954