HOMEu contact us info request further
join BAPT what is play therapy? what is a play therapist? working as a play therapist
how to become a
play therapist
career case studies about PLAY THERAPY CAREERS more play therapy informationu    



Job Description
Typical Work Activities
Work Conditions
Entry Requirements
Continuing Professional Development
Career Development
Typical Employers
Sources of Vacancies
Pay and Benefits for Play Therapists
Related Occupations
Professional Body
Information Sources


Job Description

Play Therapists work with children aged between three and eleven years of age, and occasionally adolescents, suffering from a range of psychological difficulties and complex life experiences. Psychological difficulties include depression, anxiety, aggression, learning difficulties and ADHD. Difficult life experiences include abuse, grief, family breakdown, domestic violence and trauma. A professionally trained Play Therapist helps a child to increase insight, to decrease internal conflict and to increase resiliency, coping and emotional literacy. Play Therapists work closely with the child's parents/carers throughout the Play Therapy intervention and occasionally undertake parent-child relationship interventions.

Typical Work Activities

Play Therapists are trained in the assessment and treatment of children, from nursery age to adolescence. They work predominantly with individual children and are skilled in developing symbolic communication and establishing in-depth therapeutic relationships. This mode of communication and type of relationship facilitates change and growth in children experiencing emotional distress. The emphasis is on the therapist communicating the core conditions of congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard within the therapeutic relationship. Typical work activities include:

·       Assessing the emotional needs of children in consultation with other professionals in schools, hospitals, clinics, social service teams and courts;

·       Providing treatment of children as individuals and in groups. Therapy takes place once a week, in sessions normally lasting 50 minutes;

·       Providing a regular and consistent setting and time where play therapy can commence;

·       Working in a multi-disciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and/or occupational therapists;

·       Clinically supervising other play therapists;

·       Offering consultation and advice to professionals in the community.

Work Conditions

·         Newly qualified Play Therapy posts are normally within the salary range of £18,240 to £20,415. With increasing experience and responsibility, Play Therapy posts are within the salary range of £20,415- £29,415. In private practice, Play Therapists earn between £30 -£80 per session;

·         Many Play Therapists work part-time, but for more than one organisation or undertake private practice activities. It is rare for Play Therapists to work full-time for one organisation;

·         Opportunities for employment vary from region to region - the majority of Play Therapists work in the South East of England. Some areas of Britain have no qualified play therapists in post. Opportunities for work tend to be in towns and cities and there is a very high proportion of female practitioners;

·         Play Therapists tend to work in multi-disciplinary teams and require a strong supportive network to cope with the emotionally demanding work;

·         Play Therapists receive regular clinical supervision with a more experienced therapist who monitors, supports and increases the play therapists awareness of the Play Therapy process.

·         Travel within a working day is frequent. Some Play Therapists work for several employers and may travel between them during the week.

Entry Requirements

An Honours degree in a relevant subject is an essential pre-requisite as the training is offered at postgraduate level:

·       Psychology

·       Nursing

·       Social work

·       Teaching

·       Occupational therapy

Applicants would normally have completed a minimum of two years’ work with children of varying ages and families in a voluntary or professional capacity. All applicants would also need to be in good physical and mental health and undergo a check through the Criminal Records Bureau.

Personal suitability is an essential pre-requisite to play therapy training. Maturity and relevant life experience are essential, as prospective play therapists need to be sensitive, open and motivated to help children and families in intense emotional distress. Play Therapists are faced with children in severe emotional pain and will require the insight, confidence and strength to enter into the in-depth play therapy process.

Most successful applicants have a background that includes some study of psychology and work with children in emotional distress within health, social or educational services. Play Therapy is usually a second career for those working in the fields of counselling, psychology, nursing, social work or teaching.

The minimum age for entry onto the training is 25 years and the average student is aged between 30 – 45 years.

Four training programmes are accredited by the British Association of Play Therapists:

·       Notre Dame Centre (Glasgow)

·       Liverpool Hope University College (Liverpool)

·       Roehampton University (London)

·       University of York (York)

Continuing Professional Development

Qualified Play Therapists are required to participate and maintain continuous professional development (CPD). They are required to regularly attend conferences, courses and meetings in order to remain up-to-date with theoretical, clinical and research findings. The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT) organise a yearly national play therapy conference and regularly advertise short courses in the PLAY THERAPY magazine.

Training institutions also offer post-qualifying courses.

Career Development 

There is no standard pattern for a play therapist developing his/her career. Most Play Therapists work for the National Health Service, Social Services, Education, Voluntary sector and in private practice.

Vacancies and career opportunities are good. The Play Therapy profession is rapidly developing across Britain.

Typical Employers

The majority of Play Therapists work in the statutory sector; within social services teams, child mental health services, family centres and schools.  Various independent and voluntary services also employ Play Therapists, such as the NSPCC, Barnardos and NCH.

Many Play therapists are employed by more than one organisation and maintain a private practice alongside their statutory employment. A small percentage work in the training institutions as lecturers and clinical tutors.

Sources of Vacancies

·         PLAY THERAPY Magazine

·         The Guardian (Wednesdays)

·         The Times Educational Supplement (TES)

·         Community Care

·         Social Work Today

Pay and Benefits for Play Therapists

After Play Therapists register with the British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT), the career prospects are very good.

This information relates only to Play Therapists registered with BAPT. The following salary scales mirror Whitley where the skills and knowledge of Play Therapists are deemed by BAPT to be commensurate with that of arts therapists

The salary scales from 1 April 2004 are from £20,415 to £29,415

London Allowance:

London allowance payable from April 2004 to staff in the London Weighting zones is shown below.

London: All grades receive £3,441 pa.
London: All grades receive £2,688 pa.
Fringe Zone: All grades receive £753 pa.

Related Occupations

·      Child Psychotherapist

·      Arts Therapist

·      Psychiatric Nurse

·      Educational Psychologist

·      Social Worker

·      Counsellor/Psychotherapist

·      Occupational Therapist

Professional Body

The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT) is the first and foremost professional body and voice for play therapy in the UK. BAPT registers and support over 400 members and since 1992 have made enormous progress in advancing the play therapy profession. The association is recognised by other national associations, government bodies and the general public. BAPT exists to serve its members and to increasing awareness of the profession among the general public.

Successful completion of a BAPT accredited play therapy training is a pre-requisite for BAPT full membership.

Information Sources

Relevant Publications

An Ethical Basis for Good Practice in Play Therapy
, The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT), 2002.

Core Competencies of a Play Therapist, The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT), 2002.

PLAY THERAPY Magazine, Quarterly, The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT).

British Journal of Play Therapy, The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT), Semi-annually.

International Journal of Play Therapy
, The Association of Play Therapy (USA), Semi-annually.

A Guide to Play Therapy, The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT), 2002.

What is Play Therapy? A Children’s Leaflet
, The British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT), 2003.

Cattanach, A. (1992) Play Therapy with Abused Children. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Landreth, G. (2002) Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship. London: Brunner-Routledge.

McMahon, L. (1992) The Handbook of Play Therapy. London: Routledge.

Moustakas, C. (1997) Relationship Play Therapy. New York: Jason Aronson.

O’Conner, K. (1991) The Play Therapy Primer: An Integration of Theories and Techniques. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Wilson, K., Kendrick, P. & Ryan, V. (1996) Play Therapy: A Non-directive Approach for Children and Adolescents. London: Bailliere Tindall.


Association for Play Therapy Inc., 2050 N. Winery, #101 Fresno, CA 93703 USA. Tel: (559) 252-2278. Fax: (559) 252-2297. Email: URL:

British Association of Play Therapists, 31 Cedar Drive, Keynsham, Bristol, England, BS31 2TY. Tel/Fax: 01179 860390. Email: URL:

Notre Dame Centre, 20 Athole Gardens, Glasgow, Scotland, G12 9BA. Tel: 0141 339 2366. Fax: 0141 357 1433.

Postgraduate School, Liverpool Hope University College, Hope Park, Liverpool, L16 9JD. Tel: 0151 291 3439. Fax: 0151 291 3414. URL:

School of Psychology and Therapeutic Studies, Roehampton University of Surrey, Whitelands College, West Hill, London, SW15 3SN. Tel: 020 8392 3232. Fax: 020 8392 3220. URL:

Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, York, YO1 5DD. Tel: 01904 321235. Fax: 01904 321270. URL:

more play therapy information u    

PLAY THERAPY CAREERS is a service provided by the British Association of Play Therapists (BAPT).

The photographs of children used in this site are models and do not portray actual events. Copyright © The British Association of Play Therapists (2004). All rights reserved.

Legal Notices Privacy Policy Feedback Form