What is a play therapist?
Play Therapists use play as the language through which they communicate with children. They use approaches, interventions, media and activities that are appropriate to the developmental stage of the client, facilitate the child's holistic development, and enable the child to communicate non-verbally, symbolically, and in an action-oriented manner. Play therapy training is at postgraduate level and takes a minimum of 2 years to complete. Practitioners hold a primary professional qualification (e.g. teaching, social work, childcare, social care) and most often practice within the scope of that role.
Play Therapists undertake extensive training, supervision and personal therapy so that they can safely assist children who may struggle with emotional problems in whatever professional capacity that they engage with them. They may also offer services (individual or group sessions) to support previously emotionally healthy children with minor emotional difficulties (i.e. those who are trying to adjust to changes in their life) and to children who may benefit from specialised help to enhance their development. Play Therapists are not mental health professionals unless they hold a separate mental health qualification and associated professional membership perhaps as a child psychotherapist or clinical psychologist.
Psychotherapists with a specialisation in play therapy are mental health professionals and are qualified to provide play therapy and psychotherapy services to children who are struggling with complex emotional distress and attempting to resolve painful and distressing experiences. Such psychotherapists are qualified to work with children across the spectrum of need including those with significant clinical issues such as attachment disorders and experiences of abuse.
Play Therapists utilise play as a means of preventing or treating psychosocial disorders, and enabling children to achieve optimum growth and development. The development of a therapeutic relationship is central to this work.