Play Therapist

How To Become A Play Therapist?

Learn what are the things need to comply to be a Registered Play Therapist. This article explains what can you expect about salary, working hours and qualifications.

Play therapy is practiced by various licensed mental health professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists. A behavioral and occupational therapist also uses it as a method of counseling. Play is an important means of communication for children that allows them to deal with their psychological difficulties. A registered play therapist must have taken a qualification course at the postgraduate level that is accredited by the BAPT (British Association of Play Therapists), an association for play therapy. It is a requirement for play therapy training where trainees must comply with working with children like teaching, social work, occupational therapy, or other relevant work in the area. So there are three requirements:

  1. Academic qualifications or continuing education that includes a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Education, Mental Health, Studies on Early Childhood, Nursing, and Social Work.
  2. Professional Qualifications such as teaching, nursing, social work, visual art, and drama.
  3. Professional Experience wherein there should be a minimum of 5 years of experience in the related field.

Being suitable to provide play therapy is very important and it can be deduced by experience. Play therapy usually requires at least two years experience of working with children of different ages or families who have issues in the same area. To maintain a balance of the treatment, a play therapist is also required to undergo therapy themselves.

MA in Play Therapy

Courses that are acceptable in becoming a registered play therapist need to be accredited by the Association for play therapy and as BAPT recognized students who completed will be entitled to Full membership and qualification to practice. The goal of the Play Therapy Masters program is to assist students in preparing them for clinical practice whether in the public or private sector. Once the students have successfully completed the MA in Play Therapy, they will be entitled to full membership of BAPT, an association for play therapists. There will be 9 modules for the program and these will cover areas such as theoretical, practical, and experiential learning, which are required to become a Registered Play Therapist.

These courses are designed to help the students to be fully prepared for therapeutic practice that is emotionally sound and aware. The MA program gives way to the students to focus on research and explore certain areas of Play Therapy theory and practice. One of the modules is the incorporation of the Master’s Programme and to help the students to be critical in understanding the research methodology for them to plan, design, and put into a research project and write a research proposal.

Play Therapist Average Pay

The average annual pay for a Play therapist in the U.S. as of May 16, 2020, is $64,732. The majority of Play therapist salary ranges between $48,500 (25th percentile) to $73,500 (75th percentile). The average pay varies a little regardless of the location and a little to no more chance of increase even with years of experience.

Child Professional Therapist

To be a professional child psychotherapist, you need to have enough experience of working with children in health, education setting, or social care. As a child psychotherapist, you are expected to offer psychoanalytic treatment with emotional or behavioral challenges. Complicated issues are treated differently when it comes to children which are way different from the way adults are treated. The therapist needs to understand that children have different nature and respond in expressing themselves and their understanding of the world of play.

A multidisciplinary approach is needed to work and is needed to be used inside this context of a child’s life which includes their family or school. The relationship between the therapist and the child is the main core of this treatment. The play therapy session can be done individually or the therapist may see the child in a group with other children. Or the therapist may see the parents or caregivers separately without the child present. Many therapists work in different agencies but in the same field but the most common one is getting employed at NHS private clinics while doing some work in other voluntary organizations. There are only a few therapists who work as self-employed like working exclusively in private agencies. However, once you are doing private practice, you have to follow strict guidelines and deal with your own income tax and do your clinical supervision on your own.

Among the responsibilities of a Play Therapist are:

  • Closely observe the children on how they may respond or communicate through their behavior and play.
  • In charge of assessment and treatment of children individually or a group
  • Adjust the approach to the individual child and the process in an age-appropriate way like using drawing techniques or play with young children.
  • Provide short-term and long-term involvements with children or parents, working with them in sessions or regular appointments
  • Work with other professionals in creating a plan to best help the child and his or her family.
  • Work as part of the multidisciplinary teams composed of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, pediatric nurses, and the special education community.
  • Offer play therapy training, consultation, and give supervision to other professionals working with children and other families.
  • Facilitate service delivery in combination with commissioners and develop new services.
  • Keeping updated with developments theory, research, and continuing professional development (CPD).

Play Therapist Salary

  • NHS pay scale applies to the majority of child psychotherapists who are working under NHS CAMHS or mental health agencies.
  • Psychotherapist trainees can earn between $30,401- $37,267 .
  • For qualified child psychotherapists, their salaries are around $37,570 to $43,772.
  • Principal psychotherapists are paid to start from $44,606 and may rise to $86,687

There is no standard range of fees in private practice and it may vary depending on the client, experience, and location. Some therapy professionals offer their services at a low cost for low-income clients.

Skills a Play Therapist Need to Have

  • A therapist needs to be a sensitive, empathetic, genuine interest in helping the children with their emotional problems.
  • Great communication skills.
  • Ability to cope with human emotion and to manage vulnerability to getting affected.
  • Ability to be on his or her own or being part of the team.
  • Strong personality to withstand getting overwhelmed or bothered by your client’s problems
  • Capacity to know the difference between personal feelings and emotions from the child’s
  • Strong will to help children explore the challenge and painful experiences.

Play therapy sessions normally take (9 am to 5 pm) and would take 40 to 50 minutes. For private appointments, they may take outside the scheduled hours to adjust to client needs or free hours. Play therapists can also work part-time and with various organizations at the same time.

As a play therapist and since you will be dealing with kids, there are a few things that you could expect. Working with children can be difficult more particularly if it’s a case of abuse and violence. So you have to be prepared to smoothly deal with the pressure of the session by putting a focus on your emotional well being. Your appointments may require you to travel from different workplaces every week. Since the play therapy industry is growing and jobs are in demand, you have to make sure that you are maintaining a good profile or background or you have to keep good relationships with your previous employers.


The play therapists play a big part in a child’s development in communication articulation through understanding their world and helping them deal with their emotional distress and trauma through play therapy. It has been proven that play therapists had helped the children in their social integrations, emotional modulation, behavioral aspect and build up themselves to recover from trauma, and growth and development challenges. So becoming may not be an easy path to take. Aside from the requirements in academics, the experience is another important factor to get qualified. And once you get qualified you need to have the ability and capacity in doing the task professionally and a strong personality not to get too much affected by the child’s issues so you can perform well in helping them resolve their issues.

Whether you are looking for a registered play therapist or you want to become one, make sure that you are informed and aware of these guidelines before implementing play therapy into practice. Play therapy industry is small but it continues to grow as many families are looking for help so many job vacancies are being offered. Looking up online is still the best way to find opportunities so it is important to have a good profile or review available online.

Interested in more? Check out our upcoming Play Therapy CEUs

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