Risë VanFleet

Gaining Knowledge/ Credentials in Play Therapy


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I have posted some information about credentials on the Parents section of this website. The information below is provided to help professionals determine how they can develop their knowledge and skills in the field and some of the credentials that are available. Most of the information provided relates to play therapy education and credentials in the United States, although I’ve included a little information about international opportunities.

Although there are a few graduate programs and post-master’s qualifying courses in the United States and other countries that offer significant numbers of courses in play therapy, it’s more common for a college or university to offer just one or two courses, if that.  There seem to be more courses being offered as the demand for play therapy education increases, but it’s still difficult to find substantial university offerings.  (If you’re considering graduate education that would provide a great deal of play therapy, please contact the Association for Play Therapy in North America or the British Association of Play Therapists in the United Kingdom.   As I become more familiar with other countries’ play therapy training options, I will try to update this information here (also, please watch our International page for information about this).  I expect this will continue to change for the better, but it will take time. 

Most people take what courses they can during their graduate programs and pick up the bulk of their play therapy education from workshops and conferences–either during or after they’ve completed their university training.  I usually recommend that people pursue their master’s or doctorate degrees in programs that increase their ability to practice independently (if that’s a goal for them).  In the U.S., each state has its own licensing laws, so it’s best to research which types of degrees are eligible for licensing in your state.  For example, most states license doctoral level psychologists; some license master’s level psychologists.  Most states seem to license master’s level social workers; some (but not all) states license counselors and marriage and family therapists.  It is the license in these broader professional categories that permits you to practice independently (within the scope of the license).  Play therapy is considered a specialty within these broader areas, so there’s no “state license” to practice play therapy.  (You can become a licensed psychologist or licensed social worker who specializes in play therapy, however.) In some countries, there IS a separate “license” or credential as a play therapist that is comparable to a psychologist, counselor, or social work license.

There are several credentials that play therapists in the U.S. can pursue to demonstrate to the public and other professionals that they have received special training in play therapy.  The Association for Play Therapy offers the “Registered Play Therapist” and the “Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor” credentials.  Being an RPT or an RPT-S means you have achieved a certain level of training and supervision in play therapy.  If you are (or will be) a master’s level mental health professional who seriously wants a career in play therapy, I’d suggest you contact the Association for Play Therapy and request their full application packet to become an RPT.  You will be able to see the types of training, supervision, etc. that are required. 

Other organizations, including my own, offer other play therapy credentials.  Each of these is designed to show that you have achieved at least a minimum degree of training/supervision in the field.  The “Filial Therapy Certification” that is offered by the Family Enhancement and Play Therapy Center is a specialty certificate program.  (Many of the requirements overlap with those for the Registered Play Therapist, so you can work on the two different credentials simultaneously.)  This certificate, described elsewhere in this website, is specifically for professionals who use Filial Therapy and wish to demonstrate their experience and competence in that arena.  I usually recommend that play therapy professionals consider working toward the RPT credential, developing their sub-specialty credentials either at the same time or after receiving the more general play therapy credential. Others may find it beneficial to earn the Filial Therapy Certification initially—it simply depends on your professional goals.

Perhaps you’re not interested in all this “credential” stuff.  In that case, you’re still free to pursue further education in play therapy from workshops and conferences.  Increasing numbers of organizations are offering play therapy training throughout the world.  A few distance-learning opportunities in play therapy are available now, and I expect that will increase in the coming years. 

Play therapy is gaining international momentum, probably because it works so well, and educational opportunities in the field are bound to increase. By early 2006, this website will include information about an international collaborative organization that will provide more information about play therapy and filial therapy throughout the world.

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