Charles Schaefer

November 15, 1933September 19, 2020

Dr. Charles E. Schaefer, a world-renowned psychologist, died suddenly of a stroke on September 19th. Dr. Schaefer, who was 86, spent his life advancing the field of child psychology. Most notably, he pioneered the technique of play therapy, through which children express difficult feelings and experiences by playing them out with the coaching of a supportive therapist. Dr. Schaefer’s work has helped thousands of children throughout the world process difficult life events and gain relief from mental health disorders. Dr. Schaefer’s other areas of specialty included parent training and positive psychology.

Dr. Schaefer, sometimes referred to as “the father of play therapy,” was Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, where, for many years, he was also Director of the University’s Center for Psychological Services. The University honored him with the Distinguished Faculty Award for Research and Scholarship in 1994. He was the co-founder and Director Emeritus of the Association for Play Therapy, located in Fresno, California. He was the founder of the International Play Therapy Study Group, which meets annually in countries throughout the world. He was a frequent presenter at national and international child psychology conferences, a presenter on nationally televised programs including The Oprah Winfrey Show, and a mentor to many clinicians and academics.

A prolific author and researcher, he was the author/editor of more than 100 academic articles and 60 books. His academic books include Foundations of Play Therapy and Play Diagnosis and Assessment. His books for general audiences include How to Help Children with Common Problems, Toilet Training Without Tears, and Raising Baby Right, named by Child Magazine as its 1992 Book of the Year.

Dr. Schaefer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fairfield University and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Fordham University. He began in the field by serving as the Director of Psychological Services at The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Profoundly gentle, unfailingly kind, deeply thoughtful, and always funny, Dr. Schaefer will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him. He is survived by his loving children, Karine and Eric, by his grandchildren James and Allison, daughter-in-law Irene Ma, and by his siblings Lawrence Schaefer and Elizabeth Schaefer. He is preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Anne Weldon Schaefer, who died in March, and by his siblings William Schaefer and Marie Schaefer.

Funeral services will be private. Condolences can be sent to his children at 540 Scarsdale Road, Tuckahoe NY, 10707.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Charles Schaefer

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Wilbur Nelson

September 21, 2020

As a child psychologist and longtime APT member, like many of my colleagues I am indebted to Dr. Schaefer. His influence informs my clinical work and enriches my interactions with my grandchildren. He is already sorely missed.


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