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Therapeutic Play Continuum FAQs

The seven questions below are examples of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that are asked about play therapy, therapeutic play skills and creative arts therapies. Click on the questions for suggested aers which are derived from the Play Continuum. What is the difference between play which provides a therapeutic benefit and therapeutic play?

Is someone who uses therapeutic play skills with children a Play Therapist?

How does play work fit into the scheme of things?

Is a Play Therapist using psychological therapies the same as a child psychotherapist or psychologist?

Are Art, Drama, Music Therapists also Play Therapists? We’ve got an Art Therapist so why should we need a Play Therapist as well?

When is a particular application of play suitable for a child in a specific circumstance? This is an especially important issue to ensure that children are not harmed, or that their development is delayed because of an inappropriate intervention.

How do I train for a career in play therapy or therapeutic play?


Play is self administered by the child. This type of play often happens spontaneously. There is no therapeutic intervention by another person but play has a beneficial effect upon the child’s development, indeed it is essential, and may help to resolve some slight or mild problems.

Therapeutic play has an objective related to improving the emotional development, behaviour or mental well being of the child. It is mediated by someone trained in therapeutic play skills.

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No. For someone using therapeutic play the aim is not to form a medium or long term therapeutic relationship with the child in the way that a Play Therapist does. Therapeutic play is extremely valuable in dealing with lower order conditions before they become entrenched and in detecting children who need longer term and more specialised help.

A Play Therapist will usually have more skills and experience in using a play therapy 'tool-kit'.

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The objectives of play work are care, support and in some cases educational - they are not therapeutic.

A play worker requires play skills not therapeutic play skills. However if a play worker trained in therapeutic play, as in Question 2, she/he will make an added value contribution to a play scheme.

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No - not usually. A Play Therapist is not trained to deal with severe mental health or personality problems. A child psychotherapist will normally form a longer therapeutic relationship with the client/patient and may use many elements of play therapy.

In some countries - but not the UK - a Play Therapist may only be licenced to practice if they are also an accredited Child Psychotherapist.

A clinical psychologist has completely different training, normally cognitively based. Some clinical psychologists subsequently acquire play therapy skills.

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They may be if they work integratively by using a ‘tool box’ of techniques which includes the use of other creative arts apart from their speciality or original discipline. In some cases Play Therapists, who may be regarded as generalists, wish to specialise in a particular technique and qualify additionally as one of these creative arts therapists. In other cases these therapists also train as Play Therapists.

All children have different needs. Play therapy provides an environment for self healing and development based upon how the children wish to express themselves not what the therapist chooses to provide. Some children will choose art (as an example) but many children will benefit through some other form of expression: music, dance and movemet, storytelling, sandplay, drama, puppets, clay, creative visualisation etc Some children will benefit from a single specialised therapy.

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Reference should be made to the therapeutic play continuum.

If the child's condition is a single, slight or mild one then someone accredited with therapeutic play skills should be able to alleviate the problem.

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First review your existing skills, experience and career objectives.

Then use Play Therapy International's career development section to guide you.

Identify which stage of training you need then consult the training resources section.

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