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Practice Based Play Therapy

If you already have a teaching or psychology qualification, or if you work with children as a counselor, psychotherapist, creative art therapist, nurse or social worker you may wish to add to your therapeutic play skills.

The Postgraduate Diploma/Certificate in Practice Based Play Therapy is a part-time, blended learning programme which builds on your practical experience, enhances your skills through exposure to theory, policy, research and experiential learning opportunities. It has been developed to meet the identified needs of practitioners in the play therapy sector who wish to pursue accredited programmes of study in a flexible manner, complimenting and supporting their continued employment.

The emphasis in the course is about you - your experiential and your practical training. It’s what you will be able to achieve in working with children through play that’s important – not just your theoretical knowledge.

The taught element of both the Certificate and Diploma 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 to complete and spans over two academic years for each programme. You are supported in your assignment work by your course tutor and are supervised as part of your clinical practice module.

Year 1 - Postgraduate Certificate
Orientation to setting up and developing practice-based play therapy within an integrated holistic model: pre-requisites, 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 of processing and reaching the unconscious): child development models, neuroscience evidence, psychological theories
Practicum: clinical placement (100 hours working with children)

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 – therapeutic 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 working with children)

Students who undertake this programme are currently working with children or have arranged to do so before the start of the course. This will enable you to apply theory to practice from the beginning and undertake the clinical practice component of the programme. You will also need to become a registered member of PT(IRl) before commencing the programme so that your clinical practice is governed by a relevant code of ethics.

Entry requirements

Candidates must have at least two years’ experience working with children in the relevant sectors and should normally possess a first or second class honours degree in either psychology, education, childhood studies or social work, or have a recognised equivalent professional qualification in a health, social services or education-related field.

In exceptional circumstances candidates without a degree or a recognised equivalent qualification, but with significant experience of working with children, 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 Programme Administrator for more information on this application process.


Certificate stage: 20 months, Diploma stage: 20 months

Mode of study
Block release (summer school)

Number of credits

ECTS weighting Certificate (30) Diploma (30)

Careers or further progression

Further Education
You may progress through the programme on a phased basis, initially taking the Certificate programme and then the Diploma award. An MA in Practice-based Play Therapy is currently in development at NUI Galway.

Career Opportunities

The course is run in collaboration with the Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy (APAC), the course developers. APAC are leaders in developing and providing training for certified play therapists and for CPD requirements both in the UK and internationally. The course has been developed to meet the Play Therapy International (PTI) standards of practice and training, in conjunction with Play Therapy Ireland (PTIr). On completion of the programme you will attain an NUI Galway postgraduate certificate or diploma and you will also receive an internationally recognized play therapy practice qualification to become a certified play therapist.

Qualified play therapists work in a variety of settings including primary schools, special needs schools, pre- schools, primary health care centres, social work centres, child and family centres, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) centres, care homes or adoption/foster care services. Many therapists work independently and set up their own play therapy service.

Further enquiries

Monika Jephcott is the Chief Executive of APAC and can be contacted at or if you wish to get more detailed information about the programme or to discuss your suitability for the course.

Assessment method

You will be required to complete a number of module assessments. The specific nature of these assessments will differ from module to module depending on the learning outcomes. All students will be obliged to pass a practice placement, have a satisfactory report from their clinical/practice supervisor and complete the stipulated number of practice hours (100 hours per award).

Postgraduate students are expected to demonstrate explicitly their knowledge, skills and competencies to practice as a Play Therapist in three distinct ways:
via written work
via clinical supervision
via clinical practice

Application date

Applications for the programme are made directly to the programme partners – APAC.

Monika Jephcott is the Chief Executive of APAC and can be contacted for more detailed information about the programme, application procedure and to discuss your suitability for the course. A separate application pack will be issued from APAC following your initial enquiry.

Programme Enquiries

Monika Jephcott
Email: or
The Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy or

Other general enquiries
Maria Brady
Phone: 091 495 442

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