Read this if you’re considering play therapy as a career choice
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning”. Fred Rogers
Play Therapy is a frequent question on the lips and in the minds of teachers who are researching career options these days. Indeed, many of my clients have reached out to play therapists in their area, to investigate it as a career option, and availed of coaching to get further clarity to see if it is the right choice for them.
And so, I thought it would be a good idea to share some background information on the topic.
I reached out to Trish of ‘SoulChild Play Therapy’ in Kilcock, Co. Kildare, who explained to me what she does as a play therapist, the time and financial investments she’s made over the years in the area, and how she helps young children communicate and heal through play.
Establishing a Play Therapy Business
There are many ups and downs to establishing a business, and I asked Trish about her journey to where she is at present in her business. She explained that she has worked with children for almost 20 years, initially training in Early Childhood Education.
She ran the Gymboree Meath franchise for 17 years, before going down the play therapy route. She reports that she could clearly see the powerful link between play and healthy attachments to parents and carers. As a result, she began researching what courses she could do and she began with teaching parents baby massage and baby sign language.
Next, she completed a great level 6 ‘Play Therapy Introduction Course’ at The Children’s Play Therapy Centre (https://www.childrenstherapycentre.ie/).
Her training was not yet completed however, because to qualify as a play therapist, she needed to study at Post Graduate Level.
Training to Become a Play Therapist
Trish trained with Play Therapy Ireland. http://playtherapy.ie/ They are part of http://playtherapy.org/ and https://www.playtherapy.org.uk/ based in the UK, with many international branches. They are a not for profit organisation, dedicated to promoting the use of play and creative arts as ways of enabling children to reach their full potential. The training is very experiential with practical and collaborative tasks using pair-work, group-work and case presentations. It will involve you becoming engaged in many creative methods, including sand trays, puppets and arts. In addition to theory training and assignments in child development, attachment styles and child centered play therapy by Virginia Axline (based on Carl Rogers client centered therapy). Training consists of a total of 200 clinical hours, and after the first 100 hours, the student is considered a trained play therapist, and in some cases can charge a minimum fee, for the final 100 hours.
Furthermore, Trish explains that trainees are expected to see a qualified supervisor as part of their ongoing development; 1 hour supervision per 6 clinical hours. There are approximately 12 assignments and 2 presentations to be completed.
For Trish, the whole process took a total of 36 months; the Postgrad Cert first, followed by a Diploma. The course is run through NUI Galway. However, she said, “trainees may decide to take a break between certificate and diploma, they may also decide to continue into Master’s Level”.
The Financial Considerations of Becoming a Play Therapist
When I asked Trish about the costs involved in becoming a play therapist, I was a little taken aback. Apart from the time investment, the financial investments are considerable too. She reported that in Cork and Dublin the yearly fee is €3750 (including the University Registration fee) and The Galway Summer School is - €3700 - For more information and contacts, you can request an information brochure from them at http://playtherapy.ie/Training/Certificate-Therapeutic-Play.
Other fees include, supervision, books and in some cases, personal therapy may be recommended.
Play Therapy: A Typical Day for Trish
Trish says “I work a four-day week. Due to working privately, generally, I tend not to work mornings. My first clients tend to be scheduled at 12pm or 1pm.” Her first appointment tends to be with young children, coming to play therapy after playschool. Then, she will see clients on the hour every hour till 7pm or 8pm. Her busiest times are the evenings, after school so that young children get their much needed support after the school day is over.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Play Therapist
I asked Trish about what she loves about her job and what the down sides are. In terms of the advantages, Trish is very passionate about her work. She has always loved working with children. She reports that she finds her job very rewarding because each child and play therapist form a very specialised relationship. Often, she gets to witness them becoming empowered, confident children. That must be a wonderful experience indeed.
There is lots of creativity and variety also. As play therapists, the training allows them to be creative with their job roles. Along with seeing children privately, she can work with groups of children, running courses for children with particular, similar issues such as bereavement or parental separation.
She states “I particularly enjoy running confidence building groups for children.
I enjoy the benefits of being self-employed, including choosing my hours and working close to home. However, others prefer working in a school or for a service such as Tusla”.
The main disadvantage for her work is sometimes, the issues and struggles that some of the children are coping with, make it difficult to stay in role, sometimes the mother comes out in her and she states that she wants to rescue them! “Remaining professional is the only help they need from her”, Trish stated matter of factly.
However, like any other psychotherapist, all play therapists have a supervisor to support them in this. Supervision is an essential support for therapists, and supervisors coach them to discuss issues and get further support and approaches for situations which have arisen in sessions.
Necessary Skills to Become a Play Therapist
Without skipping a beat, Trish outlined the skills required for great play therapists. These include: empathy, sincerity, integrity, coherence, resilience, respectful, sensitivity, humility and courage. She outlined that play therapists need to remain open-minded, and believe fully that the child is capable of healing when given the correct support. They need to have the ability to remain calm and nonreactive in very stressful situations.
Therapists need to be skillful when working - not just with children but with their families, foster families and other stakeholders, such as teachers, social workers and carers. A very important skill to have is to recognise your limits and know when a child may need to be referred on somewhere else.
Trish is currently furthering her education and is in the final weeks of her thesis to complete her Masters in Integrative Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy (SPICC). This is a two-and-a-half-year programme with IICP Tallaght. It will mean adding CBT, Behavioural, Narrative and Gestalt Therapy to her specialities. It has made for a particularly busy time, but she feels that she needs other options to deal with the more complex cases she is now coming across.
What kinds of children come to you?
Every child I see is different, some dealing with anxiety, attachment issues, behavioural issues others with bereavement or trauma. Most are referred by their parents, others have been referred through their school or GP. I also see clients through organisations such as Tusla and the HSE.
Do you work in schools or just in your private practice?
In addition to working in her private practice, Trish works in Naas in ‘The Kildare Play & Art Psychotherapy Centre’, where she is part of a team of play, art and family therapists. https://kildareplaytherapy.com/play-therapy/. She completed her clinical placement in a primary school for 2 years and would like to return to working in a school in the future.
The Benefits of Play Therapy
Since children struggle to express themselves verbally, play therapy
Can help them make sense of life experiences by playing them out at their own pace.
Allow the child to make sense of and understand their feelings, it will in turn help them cope with the future.
Provide them with emotional support.
Help them deal with conflict and angry feelings in more appropriate ways.
Help the carers to understand the child’s world.
The hopes at the end of therapy might include: change in the worrying behaviour, improved self-esteem and confidence.
Timeframe for Play Therapy Sessions
In play therapy - it works at each individual child’s pace. Trish’s initial commitment is a minimum of 10 weeks. She finds that many children can finish then. However, some children attend therapy for the long term, coming with multiple issues and traumas. Some children may continue for several years. Each weekly session is normally 50 minutes or less for younger children.
Useful Information for Teachers Considering Play Therapy as a Career Choice
There are several post graduate courses available. Trish’s course was through NUI Galway. However, they run it in several parts of the country including Dublin and Cork.
Here is the link http://playtherapy.ie/Careers/Become-A-Play-Therapist. CTC in Mullingar have a masters you can check out here https://childrenstherapycentre.ie/ma-humanistic-integrative-psychotherapy-and-play-therapy/
Email: Parents and schools can email her at email@example.com. She will post flyers if they wish. Facebook: Follow her also on Facebook at @SoulChild Play Therapy.
Phone: Finally they can phone her on 086 395 3610.
Thank You Trish!
I am very grateful to Trish for answering the many questions on teachers’ minds. If you are considering a change of career and are not sure what avenues are open to you as a teaching professional, do get in touch with me and we will explore all of the possibilities together. I can also help you to get your CV in order, and also your SAF. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more here.
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