Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy for Kids: How It Works


CBPT integrates cognitive and behavioral techinques into a play therapy paradigm . Playful activity, as well as non-verbal forms of verbal communication, promote thedevelopment of problem-solving skills.

Play Therapy for children

Therefore, the CBPT proposes a conceptual framework based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, tailored to the child’s developmental level, and it is an evidence-based treatment

The design of specific play therapy interventions for young children facilitates their direct involvement in therapy. The psychotherapist helps children access a form of psychotherapy that may otherwise be unavailable to them by providing these developmental interventions.

Through CBPT, it is possible to learn more adaptive coping skills and offer structured and goal-oriented activities. It also creates a space for the child to freely contribute during the session and effectively express their experiences.


We are a group of Italian and American scholars studyng Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques and the use of Play Therapy during child developmental. We have come together to spread the practice, training and research on Cognitive-Behavioral Play Therapy.

Dr. Susan Knell (1993) developed the approach by modifying adult CBT principles for children and combining CBT techniques with play therapy. She combined play with adaptive thoughts and behaviors to help children develop effective coping strategies for dealing with problems. Read more…

La Play therapy cognitivo Comportamentale



Cognitive behavioral play therapy has been used with preschool and school-aged children with a wide range of diagnoses, such as selective mutism (Knell, 1993b), anxiety and phobias (Knell, 1993a, Knell & Dasari, 2006), encopresis (Knell & Moore, 1990; Knell, 1993a), those who have experienced traumatic life events, such as abuse, emotional dysregulation (Geraci, 2021), Asperger’s, OCD, etc.

Treatment of childhood phobias with CBPT

by | Sep 29, 2021 | cognitive behavioral play therapy | 0 Comments

Although fear is part of every child's development, if excessive and persistent it can turn into a specific phobia towards a certain object/situation. With CBPT the child learns coping skills to deal with feared stimuli and manage the feelings associated with fear through the use of play.
Ansia CBPT

How to fight the child’s anxiety with CBPT

by | Sep 12, 2021 | CBPT,child psychologist | 0 Comments

Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in children and adolescent. Cognitive-Behavioral Play Therapy allows the child to learn specific skills through play that allow him to acquire control and mastery over his negative emotions.
CBPT e abuso sessuale

Sexual abuse and the use of play in psychotherapy

by | Apr 2, 2021 | childhood | 0 Comments

Sexual abuse has major traumatic impact and long-term consequences on the child that can persist into adulthood. Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy (CBPT) offers children a conceptual framework that gives them the opportunity to reveal what has happened and indirectly express their emotions, thoughts and beliefs.
Play Therapy Cognitivo-Comportamentale e Divorzio

Parental divorce and CBPT

by | Feb 16, 2021 | childhood | 0 Comments

Parental divorce is considered a highly stressful experience that often accelerates manifestation of a complex range of symptoms in children. CBPT allows children who are facing a divorce during their development to acquire specific skills that will determine their ability to cope with the event.
Play Therapy Cognitivo-Comportamentale e Mutismo Selettivo

Selective Mutism and CBPT

by | Feb 1, 2021 | childhood | 0 Comments

Children with Selective Mutism have control over their silence. To change, therefore, they must take control of their speech. Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy (CBPT) is effective because it allows children to be part of the change, to experience a sense of mastery and control over speaking, and to learn more adaptive responses to situations that cause silence.

Encopresis and CBPT

by | Jan 24, 2021 | childhood | 0 Comments

Knell and Moore presented the case of a five-year-old child with primary nonretentive encopresis and a language disorder. The treatment included a structured, focused, cognitive-behavioral play therapy program in combination with a behavioral management program implemented by the parents.
intervento CBPI

Effects of Cognitive Behavioral Play intervention (CBPI) on children’s hope and school adaptation

by | Dec 21, 2020 | childhood,Play Therapy,school | 0 Comments

Children with difficult school adjustment are at risk of developing future problematic behaviors. Therefore, it is crucial to increase their coping skills and positive school adjustment in the early school years.

This can be expressed by six specific characteristics:

1. Involves the child in therapy through play. The child is an active participant and the problems of resistance and lack of compliance can be more easily addressed. In addition, the therapist can address the child’s problems directly, rather than through a parent or significant adult.

2. Focuses on the child’s thoughts, feelings, fantasies and environment.

3. Proposes a strategy, or strategies, for the development of adaptive thoughts and behaviors that can help the child deal with situations and feelings. In fact, the positive outcome of the therapy provides that
the child will become able to replace maladaptive modalities, and to cope with events with more adaptive approaches.

4. It is a structured, directive and goal-oriented therapy rather than open- ended. The therapist works with the child and the family to set goals and helps them work towards achieving the set goals.

5. It emphasizes the use of empirically demonstrated techniques: one of the most important and utilized techniques is that of modeling (implemented for example by the therapist through the use of puppets and dolls). This, in fact, responds to the need for concrete and non-verbal demonstrations, particularly when addressing children of preschool age.

6. CBPT allows empirical control of treatment.

Finally, the CBPT interventions are adapted to the developmental age of the child, that which are part of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions.

So, in Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy (CBPT), play is used as a means of communicating and teaching evidence-based techniques to children aged 3 to 8, indirectly and engagingly.

Goals of Play Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy uses CBT techniques in a fun setting, involving children in the process of change and problem-solving.

The therapy model combines cognitive and behavioral theories, using evidence-based techniques in play therapy (Knell, 1993; Geraci, 2022).




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