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Received 02/13/12

Revised 06/08/12
Accepted 02/04/13
DOI: 10.1002/j.2161-1912.2013.00039.x

application: theory to
culturally competent practice
Factors Related to Play Therapists’
Social Justice Advocacy Attitudes
Sejal B. Parikh, Peggy Ceballos, and Phyllis Post
The authors used a correlational research design to examine how belief in
a just world, political ideology, socioeconomic status of family of origin, and
percentage of racial minority clients were related to social justice advocacy
attitudes among play therapists. A multiple regression was used to analyze
the data. Results indicated that belief in a just world and political ideology
were related to social justice advocacy. Implications for play therapy training
and future directions for research are discussed.
Keywords: play therapy, social justice
Los autores emplearon un diseño correlacional de investigación para ex-
aminar cómo la creencia en un mundo justo, la ideología política, el estatus
socioeconómico de la familia de origen y el porcentaje de clientes de mi-
norías raciales estaban relacionados con actitudes de apoyo de la justicia
social entre consejeros que usan terapia de juego. Se empleó una regresión
múltiple para analizar los datos. Los resultados indicaron que la creencia en
un mundo justo y la ideología política estaban relacionadas con la defensa
de la justicia social. Se discuten las implicaciones para formación en terapia
de juego y direcciones futuras para investigación.
Palabras Clave: terapia de juego, justicia social

T
he U.S. Census Bureau (2010) estimated that by 2050, about 64% of
children in the United States will be representative of racial and ethnic
minority groups. Additionally, statistics show that racial and ethnic
minority children are overrepresented in poverty (Cauthen & Fass, 2008),
lack equal access to resources in society (Smith, Baluch, Bernabei, Robohm,
& Sheehy, 2003), experience inequalities in the public educational system
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2005; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
2000), and are exposed to discrimination (Pascoe & Smart Richman, 2009). In
light of these statistics, mental health professionals are urged to become more
culturally responsive to better attend to the needs of these children (Sue &
Sue, 2003; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Scholars
in the play therapy field have responded by promoting play therapists’ multi-

Sejal B. Parikh, Department of Curriculum Instruction and Counselor Education, North Carolina State Uni-
versity; Peggy Ceballos and Phyllis Post, Department of Counseling, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Sejal B. Parikh is now at Department of Counseling, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Correspondence
concerning this article should be addressed to Sejal B. Parikh, Department of Counseling, University of North
Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223 (e-mail: sbparikh@uncc.edu).
© 2013 American Counseling Association. All rights reserved.

240 Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41


cultural competence (Chang, Ritter, & Hays, 2005; O’Connor, 2005; Penn &
Post, 2012; VanderGast, Post, & Kascsak-Miller, 2010). Although a variety of
multicultural issues have been addressed in the play therapy literature (Bag-
gerly, 2006; Hinman, 2003; Perez, Ramirez, & Kranz, 2007; Ramirez, Flores-
Torres, Kranz, & Lund, 2005), social justice and its clinical implications for
play therapists have been largely overlooked.
Previous research (Nilsson & Schmidt, 2005; Parikh, Post, & Flowers, 2011;
Van Soest, 1994) has shown that factors such as belief in a just world (BJW)
and political ideology influence a person’s desire to engage in social justice
advocacy (SJA); however, no research has been conducted to study the factors
that affect play therapists’ attitudes toward social justice. Therefore, the pur-
pose of this study was to examine how BJW, political ideology, socioeconomic
status (SES) of family of origin, and percentage of racial minority clients relate
to SJA attitudes among practicing play therapists.

social justice advocacy and play therapy


The link between social oppression and the mental health of marginalized
minority children and families has been discussed extensively (Chang, Crethar,
& Ratts, 2010; D’Anna, Ponce, & Siegel, 2010; Ratts, 2009; Smith, Chambers, &
Bratini, 2009). With the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Develop-
ment contributing to the development of the Multicultural Counseling Com-
petencies (Arredondo et al., 1996), scholars in various mental health fields are
advocating for counselors and other helping professionals to explore issues that
can help them operate within a social justice paradigm (Burnes & Singh, 2010;
Chang et al., 2010; Funge, 2011). This paradigm refers to counselors’ ability
to become aware of the impact that social inequities and discrimination have
on clients’ socioemotional well-being (Kiselica & Robinson, 2001). An aware-
ness of social oppression can help counselors to conceptualize holistically by
considering the intervening factors that are out of clients’ control, which will
in turn assist in guiding advocacy efforts. Kiselica and Robinson (2001) argued
that advocacy in counseling is necessary to empower clients and create changes
in sociopolitical systems. Although there are various forms of advocacy work in
the counseling profession, Lee (2001) posited that counselors can advocate to
minimize societal inequities such as poverty, prejudice, and access to resources.
According to Chang et al. (2010), social justice can be defined as a process
in which the effects of an oppressive environment on clients’ psychologi-
cal well-being are acknowledged and addressed. The authors clarified that
social advocacy refers to “acting with and on behalf of one’s client or others
in the client’s system to ensure fair and equitable treatment” (Chang et al.,
2010, p. 84). According to Chang and colleagues, social advocacy occurs at
the individual and system level. Kiselica and Robinson (2001) outlined skills
necessary for advocacy counseling that include an emotional appreciation for
clients’ suffering to the extent that one commits to end such suffering and
the ability to intervene at the organizational, group, and individual levels.

Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41 241


Furthermore, scholars in the play therapy field have recognized the im-
portance of social advocacy when working with racial/ethnic minority and
economically disadvantaged children (Baggerly, 2006; Ceballos & Bratton,
2010; O’Connor, 2005; Sheely-Moore & Bratton, 2010). Specifically, scholars
have advocated for rendering counseling services in settings that are acces-
sible to minority clients, such as going to clients’ schools and neighborhoods
(Baggerly, 2006; Ceballos & Bratton, 2010, Sheely-Moore & Bratton, 2010),
engaging in self-awareness regarding one’s feelings toward social advocacy
and working with oppressed clients (Baggerly, 2006), and accounting for op-
pressive factors when assessing clients’ socioemotional well-being (O’Connor,
2005). The aim of these suggestions is to increase access to and broaden the
spectrum of services that might not already be available to younger clients.
Although researchers have emphasized the need for culturally responsive
services (e.g., Ceballos & Bratton, 2010; Garza & Bratton, 2005; Perez et al.,
2007; Sheely-Moore & Bratton, 2010) and multicultural education and super-
vision (Chang et al., 2005; VanderGast et al., 2010) in the play therapy field,
SJA has barely been addressed. A review of the play therapy literature revealed
two articles (Baggerly, 2006; O’Connor, 2005) that mention the importance of
understanding and addressing the impact of social factors on client well-being.
In addition, because the counselor’s interpersonal way of being and ability
to show empathy are necessary to develop the optimal conditions for children
to grow within the context of play therapy (Landreth, 2002; O’Connor, 2005),
understanding social justice principles is important because it can enhance
empathy in counselor–client relationships. Furthermore, the lack of control
that children experience over oppressive factors denies them the opportunity
to achieve self-actualization without struggle (Axline, 1969). Thus, play thera-
pists need to develop attitudes that help them integrate advocacy within their
work. For these reasons, it is critical to understand the factors related to the
SJA attitudes of play therapists and identify the factors that can potentially
be addressed through training. For example, BJW, a concept that assesses
whether an individual believes that merit and fate are strongly related (Van
Soest, 1996), has been found to relate to SJA attitudes in other populations
(Parikh et al., 2011; Van Voorhis & Hostetter, 2006).

variables related to
social justice advocacy
Belief in a Just World
One personal factor that can influence play therapists’ ability to engage in
advocacy is their belief about whether people deserve what they get. BJW is an
attributional process that argues “people get what they deserve and deserve
what they get” (Lipkus & Siegler, 1993, p. 465). The foundation for this theory
is the notion that people experience injustice because they deserve it or have
personal characteristics that cause them to experience adverse consequences.

242 Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41


Cohn and Modecki (2007) further clarified this idea by stating that people who
have a strong BJW see the world as being fair; in contrast, people who have a
moderate view of a just world believe that the world is prejudiced. According
to Van Soest (1996), people with a BJW believe that those who do good deeds
are rewarded and those who do evil are punished. In addition, people who
have a BJW assume that those who suffer cannot be helped because they are
being punished for their own negative actions. Past research indicated that
the degree to which people adhere to BJW is related to their willingness to
engage in social advocacy (Parikh et al., 2011; Van Soest, 1994). Given this
philosophical stance, it is important to examine whether play therapists hold
the belief that the world is just and how this view may influence advocacy
efforts outside the playroom.

Political Ideology
Another personal characteristic that may influence play therapists’ SJA at-
titudes is political ideology. Rosenwald (2006) provided a synthesis of the
multiple definitions of political ideology, one of which is how individuals
consider policy concerns regarding the distribution of power and views about
nationalism and dependency. Another definition involves political ideology
on a scale or continuum. This definition states that on one side of the con-
tinuum are individuals on the radical left who support systemic changes that
challenge oppression, and on the opposite side are individuals on the radi-
cal right who support policies that protect fiscal conservatism, the view of a
patriarchal family, and biblical literalism (Rosenwald, 2006). Furthermore,
research in sociology has found political ideology to be a significant factor
in predicting social justice attitudes. Specifically, research has found that lib-
erals (those who support systemic change) were more likely to assist others,
whereas conservatives (those who support fiscal conservatism) believed that
people should be responsible for themselves (Bierbrauer & Klinger, 2002).
Watson, Corrigan, and Angell (2005) collected data from the MacArthur
Mental Health Module of the General Social Survey. Using a sample of 1,444
participants, Watson et al. examined motivating factors for public support
for legally mandated mental health treatment. The participants were asked
to respond to five vignettes describing individuals who had been diagnosed
with disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(4th ed., text rev.; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Results indicated
that participants who described themselves as being politically conservative
were more likely than those who described themselves as liberal to describe
the individuals in the vignettes as having bad character and were less likely
to support mental health treatment for those individuals.

Socioeconomic Status of Family of Origin


Daniels (2002) asserted that a counselor’s effectiveness is not solely based
on theory, education, or training; rather, it includes a counselor’s individual

Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41 243


personal characteristics. For example, Van Soest (1996) reported that middle-
class people may believe that those who live in poverty do not work hard
enough and, therefore, should be blamed for their circumstance. Thus, one
individual characteristic to consider when providing clinical services is the SES
of family of origin. More recently, research has found that individuals who
had a strong BJW were less likely to want to provide and seek out services for
the poor and were even more likely to deny benefits (Appelbaum, Lennon, &
Lawrence, 2006). Many researchers have argued that the fundamental nature
of social justice is in valuing and promoting the fair treatment of marginalized
and oppressed groups to have equal power as their privileged counterparts
(Fondacaro & Weinberg, 2002; Hage, 2005; Lewis, 2001).
In another research study related to SES and attitudes toward affirmative
action, results indicated that participants from a high SES background who
identified as White, Asian American, or Hispanic opposed affirmative action,
whereas African Americans from a high SES background were more likely to
support affirmative action polices (Sax & Arredondo, 1999). This suggests that
it is important to consider a personal construct such as SES when examining
policies that promote equal access. Therefore, the percentage of minority
clients served by play therapists is an important variable to consider because
a play therapist’s SES may influence the type and level of services provided
to those of similar or different SES backgrounds.

purpose of the study


Given previous research demonstrating that personal constructs relate to SJA
attitudes in other counseling and related fields, it is important to consider
whether these same constructs also influence play therapists’ SJA attitudes.
Findings may have implications for training and practice, which, in turn, may
influence the types and quality of services provided to clients. Therefore, the
purpose of the current study was to examine how the independent variables
BJW, political ideology, SES of family of origin, and percentage of racial
minority clients in one’s practice related to the dependent variable, SJA at-
titudes among play therapists.

method
Participants
Participants for this study were members of the Association for Play Therapy
(APT). Five thousand members received the survey, and 450 members re-
sponded. This resulted in a response rate of 9%. After two respondents were
eliminated for missing or invalid data, 448 participants were included in the
final analyses.
Most of the respondents were White (n = 379, 84.6%) and female (n = 416,
92.9%). More than 90% of the respondents’ SES of family of origin ranged

244 Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41


between lower middle class and upper middle class. Of the respondents,
32.1% (n = 144) were credentialed as a Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and
21.9% (n = 98) as a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor (RPTS). Although
only 54% of the respondents were RPT or RPTS, it is important to note that
to become credentialed as an RPT or RPTS, play therapists must also have at
least a master’s-level license in their field of study. For example, a counselor
must be a Licensed Professional Counselor before applying to become an
RPTS. This means that the other 46% of respondents could have been play
therapists who either were working on their original credential in their field
of study or already held their license and were working on the additional re-
quirements for becoming an RPT or RPTS. The demographic characteristics
of the sample are provided in Table 1.

Procedure
After obtaining permission from the university’s institutional review board to
conduct the study, we collected e-mail addresses from the APT membership.
We sent participants an e-mail link to the SurveyShare website (surveyshare.
com), which automatically included an informed consent form. Participants
were notified that the survey was to be administered one time only and that
their participation was completely anonymous, confidential, and voluntary.
One reminder e-mail was sent to participants. The survey remained on the
website for 6 weeks during the spring of 2011.

Measures
A demographic questionnaire consisting of 15 items was used to gather in-
formation regarding gender, race, credentials, percentage of racial minority
clients, political ideology, and SES of family of origin. The political ideology
variable was based on a 6-point Likert-type scale (1 = very conservative to 6 =
very liberal). Political ideology for this study was operationalized as whether
participants self-identified as being either conservative or liberal in their
political views (Bierbrauer & Klinger, 2002).
A self-report instrument, the Social Justice Advocacy Scale (SJAS; Van Soest,
1996), was used to measure participants’ advocacy behaviors on behalf of the
following populations: (a) gay men and lesbians, (b) women, (c) African
Americans, (d) individuals with disabilities, and (e) other racial/ethnic mi-
norities. Also included are seven vignettes in which an oppressed individual
is described to be degraded in some sort of action. Given a range of five
actions, participants choose from being a passive bystander to engaging in
advocacy (Van Soest, 1996; Van Voorhis & Hostetter, 2006). Each of the 82
items is on a 5-point Likert-type scale with the responses ranging from 1 =
rarely or none of the time to 5 = most of the time. The total scores are based on an
average of all items, with scores closer to 1 indicating a low commitment to
SJA and scores closer to 5 indicating a high commitment to SJA (Van Soest,
1996). Although there are no reports on construct or concurrent validity,

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Table 1
Numbers and Percentages of Demographic Variables
Variable n %
Gender
Female 416 92.9
Male 32 7.1
Race
Caucasian 379 84.6
African American 12 2.7
Asian/Pacific Islander 34 7.6
Hispanic/Latino 0 0.0
Native American 1 0.2
Multiracial 18 4.0
Other 4 0.9
Socioeconomic status of family of origin
Poverty or below 14 3.1
Just above poverty 31 6.9
Lower middle class 106 23.7
Middle class 193 43.1
Upper middle class 0 0.0
Upper class 104 23.2
Political view
Very conservative 15 3.3
Conservative 39 8.7
Somewhat conservative 67 15.0
Somewhat liberal 106 23.7
Liberal 166 37.1
Very liberal 55 12.3
Work setting
School 59 13.2
Agency 134 29.9
Private practice 184 41.1
University 41 9.2
Other 30 6.7
Highest degree earned
Master’s 353 78.8
Doctorate 77 17.2
Other 18 4.0
Mean percentage of race of clients served
Caucasian 54.4
African American 18.2
Asian/Pacific Islander 4.0
Hispanic/Latino 17.8
Native American 4.4
Multiracial 12.7
Other 3.6
Participants with the following credentials
Licensed social worker 122 27.2
Licensed psychiatrist 32 7.1
Licensed professional counselor 177 39.5
Professional school counselor 44 9.8
School psychiatrist 11 2.5
Licensed marriage and family therapist 89 19.9
Other 112 25.0
Participants with the Registered Play Therapist/Supervisor credentials
Registered Play Therapist 144 32.1
Registered Play Therapist Supervisor 98 21.9
Note. N = 448.

246 Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41


the SJAS does have face validity (Van Voorhis & Hostetter, 2006). Reliability
and validity measures indicated that the original field test of the instrument
resulted in a Cronbach’s alpha of .92 for the pretest and .93 for the posttest
(Van Soest, 1996). A similar reliability estimate (Cronbach’s α = .90) was also
reported by Parikh et al. (2011).
The Global Belief in a Just World Scale (GBJWS; Lipkus, 1991) is a standardized
instrument that assesses the belief that people get what they deserve and deserve
what they get. For example, one item states, “In almost any business or profession,
people who do their job well rise to the top.” The scale also explores the degree
to which people view the world as a just place. This is reflected in the item, “It is
rare for an innocent person to be wrongly sent to jail.” The GBJWS also has con-
vergent and discriminant validity, and the internal consistency has been reported
to have a Kuder–Richardson-20 coefficient of reliability equal to .82. (Lipkus,
1991). A Cronbach’s alpha reliability estimate of .75 was also reported by Parikh
et al. (2011). The scale comprises seven items on a 6-point Likert scale, with each
response ranging from 1 = strong disagreement to 7 = strong agreement. Scores range
from 7 to 49, with lower scores reflecting strong disagreement that the world is a
just place and individuals do not always get what they deserve and higher scores
reflecting greater agreement with the belief that the world is a just place.

Design
We used a nonexperimental correlational research design for the study. The
design examined how the independent variables BJW, political ideology, SES
of family of origin, and percentage of racial minority clients were related to
the dependent variable, SJA attitudes. Multiple regression analysis was used
to analyze the data.

results
Before running the analyses, we screened all data for accuracy of data entry,
missing data, linearity, normality, and univariate outliers. Two respondents
missed too many responses in their survey and were omitted from any data
analyses. No univariate outliers (i.e., greater than 3.5 standards deviations
away from the means) were found. The means, standard deviations, skewness,
and kurtosis for the variables are reported in Table 2. An examination of the
skewness values and a visual inspection of frequency distributions suggested
that the distributions of most of the variables were approximately normally
distributed. Reliability measures indicated that Cronbach’s alpha was .92 for
the SJAS and .83 for the GBJWS.
With regard to the correlation coefficients for the dependent and indepen-
dent variables, SJA was inversely related to BJW (r = –.21, p < .01) and positively
related to political ideology (r = .23, p < .01). The correlations among the
independent variables indicated that BJW was inversely related to political
ideology (r = –.25, p < .001) and to SES of family of origin (r = .09, p < .05).
In addition, SES of family of origin was inversely related to percentage of
racial minority clients (r = –.12, p < .01).
Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41 247
Table 2
Descriptive Statistics for Study Variables
Variable M SD Skewness Kurtosis
Social justice advocacy 3.07 0.36 –.38 .76
Belief in a just world 21.70 6.80 .15 –.55
Political views 4.19 1.28 –.65 –.24
Socioeconomic status of family of origin 4.00 1.31 .11 –.43
Percentage of racial minority clients 45.65 27.61 .21 –.99
Note. N = 448.
We conducted a standard multiple regression to predict cumulative SJA at-
titudes from BJW, political views, SES of family of origin, and percentage of
racial minority clients. Analysis was performed using SPSS 21 regression. The
unstandardized regression coefficients (B) and intercept and the standardized
regression coefficients (β) are reported in Table 3. The variance accounted for
(R2) equaled .09 (adjusted R2 = .08), which was significantly different from zero,
F(4, 425) = 9.93, p < .00. Two of the four independent variables (or predictor
variables) contributed significantly to the prediction of SJA attitudes. Political
views had the largest positive standardized beta and semipartial correlation
coefficient. BJW had a negative standardized beta and semipartial correlation
coefficient. The results showed that SES of family of origin and percentage
of racial minority clients did not contribute significantly to the prediction of
SJA attitudes.

discussion and implications


The current study aimed to examine SJA attitudes among play therapists.
Results offer points for discussion regarding the racial makeup of the play
therapy profession, licensure, and the variables included in this study. With
regard to the play therapy profession, although participants reported that
36% of their clients were African American or Latino, only 3% of the re-
spondents were African American and none of the respondents identified
themselves as Latino. Given that play therapists are experiencing an increase
in the number of racial and ethnic minority children and parents they serve
(Chang et al., 2005), it seems imperative that the play therapy profession
Table 3
Standard Multiple Regression Analysis Predicting Social Justice
Advocacy Attitudes From the Independent Variables

Independent Variable B b t(1) p


Intercept 3.03 28.97 .00
Belief in a just world –0.01 –.16 –3.31 <.01
Political views 0.06 .20 4.09 <.01
Socioeconomic status of family of origin –0.01 –.05 –1.07 .29
Percentage of racial minority clients 0.00 .06 1.32 .18

248 Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41


incorporate strategies to broaden the demographic scope of APT member-
ship. This notion is also echoed by Abrams et al. (2006), who asserted that
the population of practicing play therapists ought to be diversified to meet
the needs of clients with varied backgrounds. In addition, these findings
indicate the importance of multicultural training to ensure that play thera-
pists are prepared to serve a culturally diverse population of children and
families in need of services.
Also related to demographics, the current study indicated that SES of family
of origin was not related to SJA attitudes, which is similar to the results found by
Parikh et al. (2011) when surveying school counselors. However, these findings
are not consistent with Van Soest’s (1996) research that indicated individuals who
come from middle-class backgrounds were more likely to believe that those living
in poverty are to blame because they are not working hard enough to overcome
their situation. Although the results are mixed for SES, this is an important con-
sideration given that play therapists work with diverse clients, including children
who come from poverty (Baggerly, 2006), and with data indicating that 66% of
play therapists in this study were from middle- to upper-middle-class backgrounds.
A standard multiple regression was used to predict cumulative SJA attitudes
from the following variables: BJW, political ideology, SES of family of origin,
and percentage of racial minority clients. Analyses indicated that BJW and
political ideology were statistically significant predictors of SJA attitudes.
These findings are consistent with the results of a study with a sample of
school counselors (Parikh et al., 2011), although the variables were sta-
tistically stronger than those in the current study. The fact that 13.2% of
participants in our study were school counselors supports the notion that
counselors who work with children in a variety of settings and using a variety
of approaches may have consistent views about SJA.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the majority of participants self-identified
as liberal and somewhat liberal given that previous findings regarding politi-
cal ideology have found that conservatism is related to not taking action to
support efforts related to social justice (Bierbrauer & Klinger, 2002; Perry,
2003; Watson et al., 2005). Similarly, in the current study, political ideology
was positively related to SJA in that participants who identified as being lib-
eral or more liberal were more likely to have stronger attitudes toward SJA.
As defined by the Multicultural Counseling Competencies (Arredondo et al.,
1996), counselors must be aware of their own attitudes and biases. Specifically,
skilled counselors are aware of the discomfort that is related to differences
with their clients (Arredondo et al., 1996). Therefore, play therapists must
be aware of how their beliefs and values may influence their presence in the
playroom. This awareness can be obtained through various activities in train-
ing programs. One method is the use of reflective journals. Dewey (1933)
noted that reflective practice supported the transformation of experiences
from being obscure and doubtful to those that are more clear and coherent.
Therefore, play therapists in training can use reflective practice to uncover
hidden biases and prejudices that may impede true empathic practice.

Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41 249


Similar to research findings with school counselors (Parikh et al., 2011),
results from this study revealed a negative correlation between BJW and SJA
attitudes. This finding is important because BJW is a factor that could be
addressed through multicultural supervision and education. According to
Kiselica and Robinson (2001), counselors need to develop empathy for cli-
ents’ suffering as well as an understanding of advocacy to increase their ability
to incorporate social justice into their counseling work. For play therapists,
developing empathy for the children and caregivers served is essential for
therapeutic growth to occur (Landreth, 2002). Thus, addressing the effects of
oppressive factors on clients’ well-being through education and supervision is
critical. Some educational strategies to support the development of empathy
may include empathy training, activities that increase dialogue and immer-
sion, the use of case studies, and role play. These various training methods
can lead play therapists to increase their empathy and challenge their BJW,
which may lead to an increase in their SJA.

limitations and future research directions


Although a limitation in this study is the lack of racial and ethnic diversity of
respondents, the demographics of study participants mirror APT member-
ship. In addition, this is self-report survey, which could influence social desir-
ability. However, this potential influence was reduced given that the surveys
were completed anonymously. Both of these limitations emphasize the strong
need for multicultural training for this group of professionals who work with
children from diverse backgrounds. Because the population comprised APT
members, another limitation is possible differences in how individuals who
practice play therapy but who are not members of the APT would respond.
Although practitioners who are RPT credentialed must have a master’s-level
license in their field of study, many individuals who practice play therapy are
not members of APT.
Another limitation is the generalizability of the findings. Given the 9%
response rate, the sample represents only a small percentage of APT mem-
bers. Finally, the low adjusted R2 value (.08), while statistically significant,
needs to be interpreted with caution because this is an indication that
the regression equation could be overfitted with the sample, which limits
generalizability.
The findings of the current study provide directions for future research.
It would be helpful to understand more clearly the connections among
a child’s SES, race, and gender and the play therapist’s SJA attitudes.
Additional work can examine if and how play therapy training programs
infuse social justice practice into their course work, thus potentially build-
ing a profession of play therapists who are also child advocates. Because
our results are consistent with earlier findings regarding factors related
to SJA (Parikh et al., 2011), future research can also explore how play
therapists actually engage in advocacy-related behaviors.

250 Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development • October 2013 • Vol. 41


In summary, this study found that personal beliefs, political ideology, and BJW
were related to the SJA attitudes of play therapists. This finding is important
given that play therapists work in a variety of environments that serve diverse
populations of children with different needs. With an increased awareness of
issues of diversity and social justice, play therapists can be more effective in
advocating for the clients they serve.

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