- Use play to help children experiencing complex psychological, emotional or behavioural difficulties
- You'll need strong communication skills and the emotional strength to deal with difficult issues
- Roles may be part time so you may need to work with several organisations to achieve full time hours
As a play therapist, you'll usually work with children aged between 3 and 11 on a one-to-one basis, or in groups of up to 6 children. You'll use play as a way for children to communicate and express themselves.
- Assess the child's needs
- Run therapy sessions at a regular time and place
- Make use of creative arts (like drawing, clay, sand, movement, music and therapeutic storytelling)
- Communicate with children and make a connection between the signs, symbols and actions the child creates through play
- Promote positive change in the child by helping them to help themselves
You might work with children experiencing severe emotional pain and distress caused by issues like abuse, domestic violence and family breakdown.
Many jobs within play therapy are offered on a part-time basis, and you may need to work with more than one organisation or work within another profession in order to achieve full-time hours. You'll mainly work indoors, in a specially equipped playroom or a child's home or school. You'll work in a number of different settings during your working week, like social services and education departments, child mental health services, family centres, and with voluntary services like Barnardos and the NSPCC.
To be a play therapist, you'll need sensitivity and understanding, excellent verbal communication skills, the ability to understand people's reactions, patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, the ability to work well with others, flexibility and openness to change, thinking and reasoning skills, the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure.
You'll usually need a postgraduate qualification approved by the British Association of Play Therapists or Play Therapy UK.
You'll also need to register with the British Association of Play Therapists or Play Therapy UK. It'll help to make as many contacts as you can while training. Job vacancies are not always advertised.
You'll need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
With experience and further training, you could supervise less experienced therapists, or provide a consultation service to professionals in the community. You could also move into training, lecturing or clinical supervision.