Play Therapist

Job Description:

Play therapists help children to make sense of difficult life experiences, or complex psychological issues through play.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

In this role you could:

  • work closely with parents, carers and other professionals
  • assess a child’s needs and decide on a suitable course of action
  • run sessions for individuals or groups, using creative arts and storytelling
  • monitor and record children’s progress
  • take part in regular supervision sessions with a more experienced therapist


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of psychology
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • sensitivity and understanding
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork)
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability)
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure

Restrictions and Requirements
You’ll also need to pass enhanced background checks as you may work with children and vulnerable adults

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship

You’ll need to complete a degree followed by a postgraduate qualification. In the UK , this needs to be approved by the British Association of Play Therapists or Play Therapy UK.

Your undergraduate degree should be in a related subject like:

  • psychology
  • early childhood studies
  • mental health nursing
  • social work
  • education

You’ll also need experience of working with children in professions like teaching, nursing, counselling, therapy or social work.

You could do a Play Therapist Higher Apprenticeship.

This typically takes 3 years to complete.

Career tips
If you have an interest in play therapy and work in a profession like teaching, nursing, counselling or social work you may be able to take an introductory course to find out more about it.

School Subjects

Becoming a play therapist in the UK requires several years of higher education and specialized training beyond the GCSE level. However, certain GCSE subjects can provide a foundation for pursuing a career in this field and eventually becoming a play therapist. Here are some GCSE subjects that can be beneficial:

  1. Psychology: Psychology provides insights into human behavior, including child development and various therapeutic approaches. This subject can be particularly valuable for understanding the theoretical basis of play therapy.
  2. Biology: A basic understanding of biology can be helpful in comprehending the biological aspects of child development and mental health.
  3. English: Strong language and communication skills are essential for engaging with children and their families, as well as for writing reports and case notes in a professional setting.
  4. Health and Social Care: This subject can provide knowledge about the well-being of individuals and the importance of promoting positive mental health.
  5. Art and Design: Play therapy often involves creative expression through art and play materials. Familiarity with art and design can be useful in facilitating therapeutic play sessions.
  6. Sociology: Sociology can offer insights into social interactions and cultural influences, which can be relevant when working with diverse populations in play therapy.

Working Hours and Environment:

You could work at a client’s home, at a children’s care home, at a health centre or at a school.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

You’ll typically work 35-37 hours a week and on occasion attend evenings events or appointments.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience and further training, you could:

  • supervise less experienced therapists
  • provide a consultation service to professionals in the community
  • move into training, lecturing or clinical supervision