In this episode, I speak with Susan about how she came to develop Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy (CBPT). She explained that she was originally trained in psychodynamic play therapy and found it helpful. Talking with and reflecting on a child’s experience was important, but she wanted to find ways to help children gain more adaptive skills to deal with their emotions and difficulties. At the time, it was thought that you could not use CBT with young children, so she used CBT techniques and ideas and incorporated them into play. Finding ways to bring CBT into play involved modeling with puppets, dolls, toys, books and other child-oriented materials. We discussed numerous case studies using CBPT with young children, as well as the research on Cognitive Behavioral Play Interventions (CBPI), currently being used with non-clinical populations. Susan shared case examples of using puppets to model various interventions, such as Systematic Desensitization and Cognitive Change strategies, and using workbook activities, like drawing the Worry Monster/Worry Bully to help anxious and fearful children. We discuss using toys, puppets, books, movies, and art with children. She also talked about her work with parents and assessing whether the presenting problems are better treated by working with just the parents or the child and parents together in different combinations.
Susan M. Knell, Ph.D. is a psychologist who received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Case Western Reserve University and did her internship and NIMH Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI), UCLA, specializing in clinical child psychology and developmental disabilities. She is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor in Psychology at Case Western Reserve University, maintains a private practice, supervises graduate students in training, and is the author of the book, “Cognitive-Behavioral Play Therapy” (Jason Aronson, 1993). Susan was the first to study and write about the application of cognitive-behavioral therapy with young children. In addition to her book, she has published many chapters in edited books on play therapy, with recent chapters on creative applications of CBPT and treating young children with anxiety and phobias. She lectures throughout the country and internationally on Cognitive-Behavioral Play Therapy with preschool and early school-age children. Most recently, Susan has been working with Maria Angela Geraci, Ph.D., Meena Dasari, Ph.D. and colleagues, as part of the Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy Institute, in Rome, Italy. The Institute will be disseminating relevant research and providing online training in CBPT. Online training is available through the institute website: www.cognitivebehavioralplaytherapy.com.