Jennifer Farley, PhD

The Integration of Play Therapy into Infant Mental Health for At-risk Preschoolers and their Families Living in Poverty

Relational Play Therapy is a therapeutic modality that uses play and play techniques to resolve psychosocial difficulties for at-risk preschoolers and their families. As infant mental health treatment services expand to include preschoolers, the integration of Relational Play Therapy into infant mental health increases the scope of interventions available to clinicians when working with preschoolers and their families. Additionally, it ensures that supportive clinical services—such as concrete assistance with basic needs and advocacy within school, health, and court services— are embedded within treatment, which can help families reduce the risks associated with living in poverty.

To examine this treatment process, a mixed-method study was conducted with clinicians and parents who have at-risk preschoolers. Results indicate that two treatment components contributed to parental growth and empowerment: active parental involvement and a supportive clinician-parent relationship. This research suggests that further studies and clinical training experiences focused on integrative treatment models are needed in order to ensure quality treatment services for this population.

After graduation, Jennifer will begin her professional career as an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Eastern Michigan University.