Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Two Counseling Interventions to Reduce Teacher-Child Relationship Stress

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Two Counseling Interventions to Reduce Teacher-Child Relationship Stress

Article excerpt

This article discusses a study investigating the impact of two school counseling interventions, child-centered play therapy (CCPT) and teacher consultation, on teacher-child relationship stress. CCPT and teacher consultation were conducted with 93 (pre-kindergarten to fifth grade) elementary school students across three elementary schools deemed to be at risk and ethnically diverse. Students were divided into three treatment groups: CCPT only, teacher consultation only, and a combined CCPT and teacher consultation group. Results demonstrated significant differences between pretesting and posttesting on the Index of Teaching Stress. All treatment groups were found to have statistically significant reduction in teacher and student problem characteristics with large effect sizes for total stress.


The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003) has recommended the promotion of screening, assessing, and providing services for the mental health of young children, in addition to the improvement and expansion of school mental health. The Commission also proposed the need for empirically based mental health interventions for children and adults. Public and private entities have emphasized the need for researchers and clinicians to demonstrate evidence of treatment effect prior to the dissemination of funding and/or support. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) also emphasized the need for effectiveness research through the establishment of the National School Counseling Research Center (Lapan, 2005). Lapan further highlighted the weakness in school counseling research due to its history of not effectively addressing validity issues of school counseling treatments.

In the new era of evidenced-based practice, school counselors are pressured to respond with interventions that demonstrate effective change in individual and groups of students, school climate, academic progress, and/or behavioral maladjustment. However, conducting effectiveness research in the schools is problematic due to a limited ability to control certain variables such as variability of presenting problems, consistent location and time, and intervening factors affecting treatment. Owens and Murphy (2004) discussed the problems associated with effectiveness research in the schools but advocated the necessity and benefits of such research. They argued that school-based mental health programs provide a unique environment to explore evidence-based treatments in real-world settings (Owens & Murphy). The research presented in this article represents the joining of evidence-based mental health practice with effectiveness research in the school setting. This research was an attempt to study a well-established mental health practice for young children (child-centered play therapy) and a well-established intervention for teachers (consultation) to explore the impact of these interventions on teacher-child relationship stress in the real-world setting of elementary schools.


The relationship between teacher and student has been linked to the success and progress of students, both academically and personally. The teacher-child relationship is a critical determinant of a student's development, achievement, and classroom functioning, and it is affected by individual characteristics of both teacher and student, as well as dynamics of the relationship itself (Greene, Abidin, & Kmetz, 1997). Hence, behaviors exhibited by both teacher and student can contribute to a high- or low-quality relationship. One factor that contributes to the quality of the teacher-child relationship is the level of stress that exists between teacher and child (Abidin, Greene, & Konold, 2004). High levels of stress are linked to low relationship quality while low levels of stress contribute to a higher-quality relationship.

A large body of elementary school research has correlated negative teacher-child relationships with a continued trajectory of academic and behavioral problems (Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Ladd & Burgess, 2001; Pianta, Steinberg, & Rollins, 1995; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). …

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