Our Story

Mission & Purpose

Our mission is to encourage the unique development and emotional growth of children through the process of play therapy, a dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures. The therapist provides the child with selected play materials and facilitates a safe relationship to express feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviors through play, the child's natural medium of communication. To fulfill its objectives, the center provides training, research, publications, scholarships, oversees clinical play therapy services, and acts as a clearinghouse for literature in the field.

Our History

The Center for Play Therapy is the result of twenty-five years of planned development of a play therapy program in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at the University of North Texas. Interest in play therapy training by graduate students and practicing professionals in the fields of counseling, psychology, social work, and early childhood education resulted in the addition of specialized courses of instruction to UNT's play therapy curriculum. This training also increased the need for additional play therapy rooms for practice and supervision of play therapists in training. Concomitant with these developments, in 1973, the counseling department began to sponsor an annual Play Therapy Conference on the University of North Texas campus. These conferences attracted nationally recognized authorities in the field of play therapy and participants from a wide geographical region.

In 1987, responding to a request by the UNT Vice President for Academic Affairs that all departments establish national goals as part of their planning, the department of counseling faculty voted unanimously to make play therapy training a national focus. The establishment of the Center for Play Therapy in 1987 was a culmination of efforts, beginning with the first international play therapy conference in 1973, promoting the field of play therapy at the University of North Texas. Support for the Center for Play Therapy and physical space were provided by the University of North Texas. In 1988, the Center for Play Therapy was established under the direction of Dr. Garry Landreth, and a doctoral level graduate assistant was employed to assist in the operation of the Center.

The Center for Play Therapy grew rapidly and currently provides the largest play therapy training program in the world, attracting graduate students from throughout the fifty states, Canada, Mexico, China, and other countries around the world.

Founder & Director Emeritus

Garry L. Landreth

Garry L. Landreth, Ed.D., LPC, RPT-S, internationally known for his writings and work in promoting the development of Child-Centered Play Therapy, is a Regents Professor in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education and founder of the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas.

Dr. Landreth is a frequent speaker at play therapy conferences around the world. His more than 150 journal articles, books, and videos include the recent 4th edition of his award-winning book Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship, which has been translated into several languages. Dr. Landreth's other recent books are Child Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT): A 10-Session Filial Therapy Model 2nd Edition and the accompanying Child Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT) Treatment Manual. His CPRT Model received the Parent Education Best Practices Award.

Dr. Landreth served as Director of the Center for Play Therapy until 2003 and currently consults regularly with the center. Dr. Landreth is Director Emeritus of the Association for Play Therapy (APT) and received the APT Lifetime Achievement Award and the APT Research Award.

He has received numerous professional honors:

  • Meadows Honor Professor Award
  • President's Outstanding Professor Award
  • Toulouse Scholar Award
  • Regents Distinguished Professor Award
  • American Association for Counseling and Development Humanitarian and Caring Person Award
  • Virginia Axline Distinguished Professional Award
  • Shelton Excellence in Teaching Award
  • Texas Association for Play Therapy Distinguished Contribution Award
  • University of North Texas President's Award
  • Association for Specialists in Group Work Research Award
  • Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Counseling Vision and Innovation Award

Director Emerita

Sue Bratton

Sue Bratton, Ph.D., LPC-S, RPT-S is Professor Emerita, University of North Texas, and Director Emerita, UNT Center for Play Therapy with over 30 years of experience as a practitioner and researcher. Sue is nationally and internationally known speaker and author with over 90 publications and 300 professional presentations in the areas of play therapy, Child- Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT), and Child-Centered Play Therapy.  She is co-author of Child-Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT), the CPRT Treatment Manual, and CPRT in Action, a demonstration video illustrating CPRT with adoptive families, as well as three additional contemporary edited texts. Her research agenda is focused on examining the effectiveness of play therapy, CPRT, and school-based counseling services for young children and their families.  Sue is a Past President of the Association for Play Therapy (APT), recipient of the 2016 APT Lifetime Achievement Award, 2007 APT Outstanding Research Award, the 2011 Chi Sigma Iota Outstanding Practitioner Supervisor Award, the 2013 ACA Best Practice Award, the 2013 AHC Humanistic Educator/ Supervisor Award, the 2014 ACA Extended Research Award, and several UNT teaching, research and service awards. She is an active social advocate for children at the local, national, and international level, particularly underserved children who have experienced interpersonal trauma. Her career-long passion and record of service is focused on helping children receive the help and nurturing they need to reach their full potential.