Entry to the Play Therapy Profession

In order to provide support for as many children as possible, who have emotional, behaviour and mental health problems, APAC welcomes entrants from many different professional backgrounds as well as those embarking on their first career. Personal qualities are very important (see below).  

APAC offers advice for anyone interested in developing their career using therapeutic play skills or in becoming a Certified Play Therapist. Contact Chief Executive of APAC, Monika Jephcott, and her team on 01825 761143 or email:        

If you are seriously considering play therapy training but would like to experience it without making a major commitment we suggest that you attend a one-day introductory course.  

These courses are more than open days because you will receive experiential training in basic therapeutic play skills as well as meeting tutors and be able to ask about the issues that are most important to you.  

The other factor that you must take into account is the regulation of the play therapy profession through the Professional Standards Authority.

Personal Qualities

You will need to have the following attributes if you are to work effectively and ethically with children:  

Empathy - the ability to understand how others feel - to put yourself in the client's position

  • Experiential training will increase your understanding of what the children are feeling during play therapy. You will also need to empathise with parent/carers, referrers and others involved.  

Sincerity - you do what you say & Integrity - straightforwardness, honesty and coherence

  • To gain children's trust.  

Resilience - work without being personally diminished

  • You must not let the harrowing children's experiences get to you.  

Respect - show appropriate esteem to others

  • Never patronise the children.

Humility - acknowledge own strengths and weaknesses

  • No one is perfect, the children will respect your admission of mistakes and weaknesses.  

Competence - effective deployment of skills

  • Play therapy competencies must be acquired through experiential training that is practice based.  

Fairness - consistent decisions and actions

  • Treat all children equally - they will soon find out, if you don't.  

Wisdom - sound judgement

  • This comes through experience, clinical supervision, reflection on practice, clinical governance and continuous professional development.

Courage

  • Being able to take decisions and act in spite of known fears, risks, uncertainty and opposition.  

A sense of humour

  • Working with children requires a sense of fun. The therapist should not be afraid of making a fool of themselves.  

Positive outlook

  • Play therapy and filial play are comparatively recent developments. You will almost certainly encounter resistance to change.  

New Entrants  

School leavers who are interested in making a career in this field are advised to first undertake a degree course with some relevance such as childhood studies, psychology or social sciences ideally with an option involving children's development. They should then arrange to attend a one-day introductory course in order to decide if they wish to proceed to a post graduate Certificate, Diploma or MA programme accredited by PTUK.  

Mature Entrants  

Mature entrants who have considerable experience of working with children but no relevant formal qualifications or a first level degree are also welcomed into the profession via perhaps stage 1 foundation or conversion courses.

Because circumstances vary considerably it is best to seek advice using PTUK's free career advisory service.  

Arts, drama, music, movement and other creative arts therapists  

The profession badly needs your experience adapted to working with children. A Play Therapist requires a range of tools so that you will also be able to add other ways of working creatively to your existing skills.  

You may be able to commence your play therapy training at Diploma stage according to your experience and aspirations.

Counsellors, psychotherapists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists

Play therapy offers you an opportunity to develop non talking therapy skills which you will be able to use with adults as well as children. Therapeutic play skills will also be useful systemically in, for example, working with families where children are an important issue.  

You may be able to commence your play therapy training at Diploma stage according to your experience and aspirations.

Other Care and Social Services 

Professionals may use play therapy to assist children in transition and to support children who have suffered abuse, trauma, attachment problems and loss. Play therapy is valuable for children on the autistic spectrum and with other physical/developmental disabilities.  

Mapping Stages to Other Models  

There is often confusion about educational levels in the UK. Two other frameworks in widespread use are the University and QCA models. See table showing PTUK's view on approximate correspondence and matching between stages and levels.

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