Disparities in access to mental healthcare among marginalized K-12 youth in Georgia are severe. Georgia ranks 49th in the nation in access to mental health services but first in the prevalence of mental health issues (Reinert et al., 2022). In addition, despite substantial research and evidence highlighting the importance of early intervention treatment for mental health issues, complex and compounding treatment barriers persist.
Research demonstrates that children with access to in-school mental health services are significantly more likely to receive treatment. Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT), a culturally sensitive, evidence-based therapeutic intervention, is poised to be able to address these disparities in access to care. In addition, school-based social workers—already serving in K-12 Georgia schools—are perfectly positioned to provide critically-needed school-based mental health treatment services.
Product one is a systematic review focused on primary research that assessed the outcomes of the effectiveness of CCPT in addressing unmet mental health needs in K-12 public schools. The purpose of conducting a systematic literature review was to establish a foundation of quality research assessing play therapy outcomes in school settings and to explore previous attempts to address inequities in access to care. Next, product two is a conceptual paper exploring grounding CCPT theoretically in the systems perspective of social work and an anti-oppressive practice approach. Finally, product three outlines a holistic approach to operationalizing child-centered play therapy (CCPT) training in K-12 school systems across Georgia—through targeted enhancements to social work continuing education training.
Through innovative social work education initiatives—such as widespread Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) training during school social worker continuing education—social work educators could increase clinical education opportunities for K-12 school staff while increasing access to quality mental health care for our most at-risk youth—and potentially transforming Georgia’s mental health in the process.