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, PTIrl welcomes entrants from many different professional backgrounds as well as those embarking on their  first career.  Personal qualities are very important (see below).

PTIrl offers careers advice for anyone interested in developing their career using therapeutic play skills or in becoming a Certified Play Therapist. email: contact@ptirl.org

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 PTIrl approved 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.

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’ To gain children’s trust.
Integrity – straightforwardness, honesty and coherence.
Resilience – work without being personally diminished. You must not let, the sometimes 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 practise, clinical governance and continuous professional development.
Courage Being able to take decisions and act in spite of known fears, risks, uncertainty and opposition.
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 PTI/IBECPT.

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 PTIrl’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. For more details see Career Development Paths

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 may 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. For more details see Career Development Paths

PTIrl also arranges specially designed training programmes for local groups, counselling services and for in-house training.

Other experienced health, teaching, social service and care professionals

Play therapy offers health professionals such as doctors, nurses and occupational therapists another opportunity to alleviate childrens’ emotional, behaviour and mental health problems.  Therapeutic play skills will also be useful systemically in, for example, working with families where the childrens’ conditions are an important issue.

Education professionals

Including Teachers, SENCOS and Educational Psychologists are increasingly using therapeutic play skills to work on behaviour problems as well as alleviating emotional conditions that prevent children reaching their full academic potential.  Therapeutic play enables the development of the holistic child and support the emotional literacy component of the curriculum.

Learning Mentors, Teaching and Learning Assistants may use therapeutic play skills to enhance their career opportunities and integrate play therapy into the school.

PTIrl also arranges specially designed programmes for local clusters of schools.

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.


For more details see Career Development Paths