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How to become a Play Therapist

play therapist careers

What does a Play Therapist do?

Play therapists help children to make sense of difficult life experiences, past or present, through the symbolic communication of play. Play is a child's natural way of communicating and can help children to explore various issues that they might find difficult to express in other ways.

Play therapy work is usually with children aged between 3 and 11, sometimes with adolescents, and mainly on a one-to-one basis with sessions lasting about an hour. Some play therapists also work with groups of children.

Approaches and techniques vary from child-centred (also known as ‘non-directive’) to 'focussed' or 'directive'. Play therapists use toys such as puppets, cars and dolls, as well as play materials like paints, crayons, sand and water.

Therapists keep written records of sessions with children. They are responsible for writing letters and reports, as well as liaising with parents and other professionals. Sometimes they may have to attend court.

Play therapy has developed into a career in its own right, but it is also a method of working with children that is used in other professions such as social work, nursing or child mental health.

What's the working environment like working as a Play Therapist?

Many play therapists work part-time. Play therapy sessions are usually held on weekdays, and some play therapists work after school, up to about 6.30pm.

They work indoors, sometimes in a specially equipped playroom, but often in children's own homes or schools. A driving licence is useful.

What does it take to become a Play Therapist?

To be a play therapist you should:

  • have a broad knowledge of the physical and emotional development of children
  • be able to understand children who have experienced distressing situations
  • be alert and aware of the many different ways in which children communicate their feelings
  • be honest and sincere in your respect for children
  • accept difficult and perhaps shocking behaviour or facts, without making judgements
  • be aware of the importance of confidentiality
  • have a lot of physical energy (although disability is not necessarily a barrier to this work).

Play Therapist Career Opportunities

Play therapists are employed by social services departments, health services, education and voluntary agencies. This is a rapidly expanding career, with most jobs in large towns and cities.

There are very few full-time posts. Play therapists usually work on a part-time or freelance basis and may combine play therapy with another part-time profession. It is common for a play therapist to be employed by more than one organisation and have a private practice alongside this employment.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Play Therapist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT)
31 Cedar Drive
BS31 2TY
Tel: 0117 986 0390

Play Therapy Careers

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

Courses to help you become a Play Therapist