Practice Based Play Therapy

Course Overview
The course focuses on play therapy as a method of alleviating a child's emotional, conduct, social and mental health problems using play and creative arts therapies. Through the various therapeutic processes and techniques it enables children to help themselves and enable their potential. The course builds on practical experience, enhancing the learner's skills through exposure to theory, policy, research and work-based learning. Offered in collaboration with the Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy (APAC) – course developers, this parttime blended learning course provides an opportunity to obtain an internationally recognized play therapy qualifi cation and to become a certifi ed play therapist. The course has been developed to meet the Play Therapy International (PTI) standards of practice and training, in conjunction with Play Therapy Ireland (PTIrl).

Who Should Apply?
This course is suitable for those who wish to add therapeutic play skills to their existing qualifi cation. It is aimed at individuals who work with children in roles such as counsellor psychotherapists, psychologists, teachers, occupational therapists, nurses and social workers.

Course Structure and Delivery
The taught element of the programme is organised as a 15-day residential summer school at NUI Galway, followed by independent study, course assignments and a clinical practice component of 100 hours working with children. This workload normally requires a maximum of 20 months spanning over two academic years to complete. Students can exit the programme at the end of stage one or progress into the second stage – the Diploma phase which has a similar course structure of 15-day residential summer school, course assignments and 100 hours of clinical supervision. Students are supported in their assignment work by their course tutor and their supervisor oversees their clinical practice module.

The emphasis in course delivery is on experiential and practical training. It's what you will be able to achieve with children through play that's important – not just your theoretical knowledge. The experiential training has three important aspects:

• Understanding the therapeutic processes that children undergo

• Uncovering any personal issues that may arise for you in your work and how to manage them

• Non-directive play therapy – using therapeutic methods, play and creative arts media that the children choose to use

Learning will mainly be experiential and collaborative using pair/ group work, roleplay and case presentation. The teaching team consists of experienced therapists as well as trainers who are experienced in therapeutic playroom techniques and theoretical knowledge which will inform your practice, help you to reflect and to point to ways of developing your own theoretical framework.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first or second class honours degree in one of a range of relevant subject areas including psychology, education, childhood studies, social work, or have a recognised equivalent professional qualifi cation in a health, social services or education related fi eld such as nursing, psychology, social work, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, counselling or teaching. Candidates are required to become registered members of Play Therapy Ireland in order that their work is governed by a relevant ethical framework.

Applicants must also have at least 2 years experience working with children in the sector and have a working knowledge of the basic psychological theories, including child development and attachment.

In exceptional circumstances candidates without a degree or a recognised equivalent qualification, but with signifi cant experience of working with children and other relevant qualifi cations, may apply. In such cases a portfolio of evidence demonstrating their knowledge and experience of the sector and an ability to study at this level will be required. An interview will also be carried out by the programme board. Non-standard applicants are encouraged to apply immediately as it may take up to 6 weeks to process your application and associated documents. Please contact the Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy for more information on this application process.

Assessment Info

Assessment differs from module to module, depending on the learning outcomes. Students must also pass the practice placement, have a satisfactory report from their clinical practice supervisor and complete the required number of practice hours for each award.

Subjects taught

Course Modules

Year One - Postgraduate Certificate

• Orientation to setting up and developing practicebased play therapy within an integrated holistic model: prerequisites, equipment, ethical framework, contracts, role of clinical supervision, clinical governance

• Using symbolic play therapy tools and metaphor safely in a non directive approach with individual children: art – painting and drawing, clay, creative visualisation, movement, music, puppets, sand play, therapeutic story telling

• Using creative arts therapies (as a means to processing and reaching the unconscious): child development models, neuroscience evidence, psychological theories

• Practicum: clinical placement (100 hours)

Year Two - Postgraduate Diploma

• Working therapeutically and developing skills with children: developing metaphorical play therapy skills at an advanced level

• Working therapeutically and representing children with severe problems: decision taking based on deepening skills for working with more severe problems

• Establishing a play therapy service: critically reviewing existing materials and integrating the therapeutic tool-kit with practice and research

• Practicum: clinical placement (100 hours)


ECTS Certificate (30) Diploma (30)


Certificate stage: 20 months, Diploma stage: 20 months

Mode of study
Block release (Summer School)


Fees: (per annum)
EU: Cert €3,700, Diploma €3,900
Non-EU: Cert €4,200, Diploma €4,400

Enrolment dates

Start date:
PG Certificate: Tuesday, 2 July, 2019 to Tuesday, 16 July, 2019 (inclusive)
PG Diploma: Tuesday, 2 July, 2019 to Tuesday, 16 July, 2019 (inclusive)

Post Course Info

What career or further study opportunities are there?
The course provides an opportunity for those interested in developing their skills to work therapeutically with children and for those who wish to make a career decision to become a play therapist. The principles of play therapy are used by a wide range of professionals, such as counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, teaching staff, occupational therapists, nurses and social workers.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Postgraduate Certificate

  • Attendance type

    Part time

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    Course provider