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Play therapist

Details of standard

Occupation summary

This occupation is found in Education and Social care settings. Play Therapists work in a range of settings such as primary schools, early years centres, sure start centres, child and adolescent, mental health services, voluntary, private sector or organisations concerned with children’s welfare.

The broad purpose of the occupation is the employee will work to improve children’s mental health, emotional well-being, learning capabilities and social relationships.  The aim is to enable their full potential by using therapeutic play and a wide range of media and resources. These include sand worlds, clay, puppets, masks, creative visualisations, dressing up, role play, games, messy play, water, drawing and painting and therapeutic stories written for individual children. Play therapy is used both as a long-term intervention for healing chronic issues and as a short term one to prevent slight/mild problems developing into more serious ones.

Play therapy is essentially a non-talking therapy because children very often either cannot or do not want to talk about their problems, which may include traumatic experiences.

Working within the legal and ethical requirements of a Play Therapist alleviating children's mental health, emotional and behaviour issues and keeping them safe.  The employee will comply with the standards of the Professional Standards Authority Accredited (PSA) Register of Play and Creative Arts Therapists managed by Play Therapy UK.  The employee in this occupation works within parameters of safeguarding legislation to protect children from harm (all types of abuse) responding to disclosures as defined within legislation. In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with Play Therapists interact with parents/carers, referrers including Head Teachers, Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs), Special Educational Needs & Disabilities Coordinators (SENDCOs), Social Workers, Nurses, GPs, Child Psychotherapists Educational and Clinical Psychologists, Clinical Supervisors and other professionals concerned with children's welfare.

An employee in this occupation will be responsible for Play Therapists are responsible for alleviating children's mental health, emotional and behaviour issues and keeping them safe. They use a holistic model which integrates: working with the unconscious mind which comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgements, feelings, or behaviour; the preconscious mind which contains thoughts and feelings that a child is not currently aware of, but which can easily be brought to consciousness as it exists just below the level of consciousness; as well as the conscious mind, which consists of all the mental processes of which we are aware; direct approaches where the Play Therapist prescribes the activities that the child undertakes in the sessions (less common); and indirect approaches where the child themselves chooses what to do (more common).

The therapist communicates with the child using the media that the child has chosen. The therapist also bases the therapy on how the child presents i.e. their behaviour at the start of and during the session e.g. angry, sad, shy, utilising what the child brings to the sessions with the child leading the process rather than 'doing therapy' to the child. The Integrative Holistic model of play therapy, which is the basis of our proposal is validated by a substantial practice evidence base proving that it is highly effective for helping children to overcome their problems.

It is used successfully with a wide range of children's presenting conditions including, but not limited to: suffering from traumatic experiences,  lack of engagement, language difficulties (elective mutes), learning disabilities, family and social relationship difficulties; anger management; attachment issues; all categories of abuse; lack of self-esteem; anxiety disorder; bereavement and loss; experience of domestic violence; lack of confidence; autistic disorder; anti-social behaviour; Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD: a  persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and is more severe than is typically observed in individuals at comparable level of development); adjustment problems and bullying.

Typical job titles include:

Accredited play therapist Certified play therapist Practitioners in therapeutic play skills

Entry requirements

Typically, Level 6 with a minimum of 2 years’ experience of working with children or Level 5 through required prior Leaning (RPL) minimum of 5 years’ experience of working with children.

Occupation duties



Duty 1 Fulfil the legal and ethical requirements of a Play Therapist and the standards of the Professional Standards Authority Accredited (PSA) Register of Play and Creative Arts Therapists managed by Play Therapy UK

K1 K2

S2 S3


Duty 2 Organise and manage a caseload of clients and the resources available

K8 K9 K11

S1 S5 S6 S7

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B7 B8

Duty 3 Allocate referrals received from a wide range of stakeholders and professionals and develop an appropriate treatment plan

K5 K7 K8 K11

S1 S5 S6 S7 S11

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B7 B8

Duty 4 Conduct interviews with parent/carers and referrers to identify needs, constraints and other relevant social, medical and educational information. Obtain consent from the person legally responsible for the child to proceed with therapy and record and process data within the relevant Data Protection Policy, conforming to the 2018 Data Protection Act

K1 K5 K7 K8 K9 K11 K12

S4 S5 S6 S7

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B7 B8

Duty 5 Assess a child’s initial mental health and emotional well-being needs, using the psychometric instruments designed for assessing children and infants together with their parent/carers' hopes and expectation and needs for their child's therapy. Recommend which intervention, if any, may be the most appropriate

K5 K7 K8 K11 K12

S1 S4 S5 S6 S7

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B7 B8

Duty 6 Deliver the treatment plan in accordance with the Integrative Holistic Model

K3 K4 K6 K7 K9 K10 K12 K13 K14

S1 S2 S5 S8 S9 S10 S11 S12 S13 S14

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B7 B8

Duty 7 Make sure that the children take an active role in the therapeutic process through verbal and non-verbal communication

K4 K6 K7 K8 K9 K10 K13 K14

S1 S2 S5 S8 S9 S10 S11 S12 S13 S14

B1 B2 B3 B5 B6 B7 B8

Duty 8 Support children to form their own strategies for dealing with traumatic experiences

K4 K6 K7 K9 K10 K12 K13 K14

S1 S2 S5 S8 S9 S10 S11 S12 S13 S14

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B7 B8

Duty 9 Evaluate play therapy sessions by following the child's processes during each individual or group session, intervening if necessary, to keep the child safe. Also, track the child's progress in preparation for clinical supervision

K5 K7 K8 K10 K12 K14

S1 S3 S4 S5 S6 S8 S10 S11 S13 S14

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B7

Duty 10 Analyse progress and issues that have arisen in the session that need to be taken to clinical supervision for advice and support

K5 K7 K8 K11 K12

S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 S13 S14

B1 B2 B3 B4 B6 B8

Duty 11 Consult and meet regularly with parent/carers and referrers to assess the client's progress, adjusting the therapeutic objectives and means of achieving them. Discuss the results of any interim or ending assessments. Agree if the number of sessions needs to be increased or ended taking appropriate action

K1 K5 K7

S4 S5 S6

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B7 B8

Duty 12 Report and communicate appropriately to stakeholders and professionals identifying the on-going needs of the child

K1 K5 K7 K8 K11 K12

S1 S4 S5 S6

B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B7 B8

Duty 13 Manage the physical and emotional safety of the children through the use of approved check lists and procedures covering the use of equipment, materials, the playroom and the working environment

K1 K3 K6 K13

S2 S3 S13

B1 B8

Duty 14 Provide joined up working by briefing, consulting with and supporting colleagues in the wider education, health and social care team giving your professional judgement (within the boundaries of your qualifications and experience) as required. Exchange data that is for the benefit of the children using agreed data protection protocols and formats. whilst also maintaining ethical/professional boundaries

K1 K5 K7

S4 S5 S6 S7

B1 B4 B6 B7 B8

Duty 15 Protect the children’s and parent/carers’ right to confidentiality through recording of data relating to the children therapy using an approved digital record management system so that the data is available for practice-based evidence, quality assurance, service audit and research activities

K1 K11 K12



Duty 16 Implement their own continued personal and professional development plan

K1 K5 K7 K9 K12 K14

S1 S4 S5 S7 S8

B1 B2 B6

Duty 17 Keep up to date with the latest findings of child therapies

K5 K7 K12

S1 S4 S5 S8

B1 B6

Duty 18 Implement the learning and action points which arise through clinical supervision

K1 K3 K8 K9 K10 K12 K13 K14

S1 S3 S6 S7 S8 S9 S10 S11 S12 S13 S14

B1 B2 B5 B6



K1: What is required of a play therapist by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), government and professional bodies Back to Duty

K2: The importance of play and attachment theory in child and adolescent development and its role in play therapy Back to Duty

K3: What is required to be fit for play therapy practice taking into consideration physical and mental health and social factors Back to Duty

K4: How to manage the equipment used in play therapy practice to ensure that it meets the needs of the children irrespective of their physical developmental needs Back to Duty

K5: Psychopharmacology for working with children receiving play therapy Back to Duty

K6: Requirements to manage a playroom/ play space for therapeutic uses Back to Duty

K7: The workings of and the relevant components of children's brains, and how the mind is created and changed Back to Duty

K8: Play therapy for children who have mental health and emotional well-being issues not exclusive to trauma, loss, neglect, abuse, anxiety, relationship issues Back to Duty

K9: How to use a wide range of therapeutic activities including creative arts media for play therapy purposes Back to Duty

K10: Indirect and direct play therapy modalities, as appropriate with individual and with groups of children to build positive relationship with the child Back to Duty

K11: The knowledge of effective and efficient referral procedures for play therapy Back to Duty

K12: Research relating to the efficacy, effectiveness and efficiency of children's mental health and emotional well-being of play therapy interventions Back to Duty

K13: Physical safety risks and how to mitigate them in play therapy practice Back to Duty

K14: Play therapy skills in practice Back to Duty


S1: Apply in practice of the importance of play in child development with children and early adolescence Back to Duty

S2: Identify, acquire and manage the safety of materials and equipment for use in the playroom for therapeutic purposes these are: paper, art materials, clay, sand, sand trays with symbols, musical instruments, puppets, dressing-up clothes, water, movements items, this is an example of the minimum therapeutic media required which would be adapted to meet the needs of the children Back to Duty

S3: Recognise personal issues that arise as a result of sessions with children, clinical supervision and training; takes actions such as personal therapy or CPD to deal with these Back to Duty

S4: Apply neurobiology to work with children in observation, assessment, during sessions and reporting upon clinical outcomes Back to Duty

S5: Manages the consultation process through interview and discussion skills, adequate assessment of client needs, obtaining consent, agreeing a therapy contract including therapeutic objectives or making a referral to another professional concerned with children’s well-being if the case is outside their competence or resources Back to Duty

S6: Make clinical assessments using psychometric tools such as the Strength’s and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) Back to Duty

S7: Applies a theoretical framework to play therapy practice including child development and attachment theory Back to Duty

S8: Use the following mediums: therapeutic stories, clay, role play, drawing and painting, puppets, games, sand-play, music, movement, creative visualisations, masks, dressing up, blocks/lego, water, messy play, relaxation Back to Duty

S9: Decide and practice when to work indirectly or directly, and with unconscious or conscious processes using the Play Therapy Dimensions Model as a guide to session activities Back to Duty

S10: Plan and use play therapy for groups of children Back to Duty

S11: Establish, agree and enforce boundaries to jeep the children safe Back to Duty

S12: Respond to different children’s behaviours such as aggressive/acting out or passive children in play therapy sessions Back to Duty

S13: Assess and deliver play therapy interventions with a variety of conditions on a spectrum of needs from low risk to high risk as measured by the SDQ and other factors Back to Duty

S14: Apply ethical principles to ensure personal safety within individual or group play therapy sessions. Back to Duty


B1: Integrity and coherent in dealings with others Back to Duty

B2: Demonstrating a personal commitment to consistency between what they profess and what they do Back to Duty

B3: Being empathetic through communicating an understanding of another person's experience from that person's perspective (including the children's) Back to Duty

B4: Being resilient through having the capacity to work with parents' and children’s concerns without being personally diminished Back to Duty

B5: Ability to make decisions in the best interest of the child when needing to refer to others Back to Duty

B6: Demonstrate how to apply appropriate criteria to inform decisions and actions regardless of your personal views without discrimination Back to Duty

B7: Show compassion through kindness, consideration, dignity, empathy and respect Back to Duty

B8: Respect confidentiality of the child and parents, recognising the differences between a therapeutic role as compared to eg a teaching role Back to Duty


English & Maths

Apprentices without level 2 English and maths will need to achieve this level prior to taking the End-Point Assessment. For those with an education, health and care plan or a legacy statement, the apprenticeship’s English and maths minimum requirement is Entry Level 3. A British Sign Language (BSL) qualification is an alternative to the English qualification for those whose primary language is BSL.

Professional recognition

This standard aligns with the following professional recognition:

  • Play Therapy UK for 7

Additional details

Occupational Level:


Duration (months):



This apprenticeship standard will be reviewed after three years

Status: In development
Proposal approved Standard approved Assessment plan approved
Level: 7
Degree: TBC
Reference: ST0905
Route: Care services
Typical duration to gateway: 36 months (this does not include EPA period)
Employers involved in creating the standard: Whitefriars Primary Academy, Ricelane Primary School, Millstead Redbridge, Castle Bromwich Infant and Nursery School, Trust, House Lancashire, St Marys Primary School, The Bishop’s Primary Academy, St Martha’s Catholic Primary School, Wayland Junior Academy, Cobholm primary Academy, The Wherry School, Sidestrand Hall School, Mulbarton, The Chorister School, Extended School Services - Essex, Noam Primary, Brookside Primary School

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