This week, from February 3rd through the 9th, is National Play Therapy Week! During this week, play therapists, such as myself, from all over the nation go above and beyond to promote (and celebrate) the importance of play, play therapy, credentialed play therapists, and the profession. I’ve been provided therapeutic services to children for over 15 years, however, I started actively learning and pursuing to become a Registered Play Therapist in 2010. I saw the benefits of play and of play therapy. I saw how it helped children, who didn’t quite have the words, to express themselves and be able to “talk” through their “first” language, PLAY!
A Registered Play Therapist (RPT) is a licensed mental health professional who has extensive specialized training, knowledge, and experience in play therapy treatment methods, who has been credentialed by the Association of Play Therapy (APT). A Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S) is a Registered Play Therapist, who has also taken extensive specialized training on supervising others to become an RPT, while obtaining more than the minimum required play therapy experience hours needed to become an RPT, who has been credentialed by the APT. People often ask me, “What is Play Therapy?” Play Therapy is defined by APT as the “systematic use of theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained Play Therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.” Children naturally learn through play and touch. Play Therapy builds upon that, which helps children learn to communicate with others, express their feelings, modify their behavior, develop problem-solving skills, improve their relationship with others, improve social skills, process and deal with grief, divorce, abuse, or any other change or challenge they may have experienced, improve their self-esteem, and so many other things. Although, anyone at any age can benefit from play therapy, play therapy is especially appropriate for children ages 3 to 12 years old. According to play therapy icon Garry Landreth, “Play is the child’s natural form of communication. Toys are their words and play is their language.”
I honestly love working with children and truly want to assist them with any challenges they may have. However, at one point, I decided not to pursue becoming credentialed as an RPT, while continuing to seek play therapy training and provide play therapy. I later changed my mind and decided to resume pursuing to become an RPT, due the lack of RPTs of color. I am a strong believer and advocate of diversity and representation in all environments. So, how could I advocate for more diversity and representation, when I wasn’t being a reflection of that in APT? I mean, I demonstrated diversity and representation in my play room, as well as in my personal life, with the toys, books, games, and other play therapy interventions that I use, but what about in the profession as a whole? What about other RPTs? So, I decided not only to become an RPT, but to go even further and become an RPT-S. Becoming an RPT-S has allowed me to show the world that I value the profession of play therapy. It has allowed me to become a better play therapist, due to the extensive and specific play therapy trainings, experience, and supervision set by APT to become a credentialed Play Therapist and even more to become an RPT-S.
It has allowed me to be more knowledgeable and experienced to better help children who may not know how to put their feelings and challenges into words or how to deal with their feelings, emotions, challenges, changes in their lives, etc. It has allowed me to provide cultural and racial diversity play therapy practice development consultation, play therapy training, and play therapy supervision, which I also provide at a distance. It has allowed me to create and lead groups, such as The Journey of Cultural and Racial Diversity in Play Therapy at https://www.facebook.com/groups/theplayjourney to assist other RPTs or soon to be RPTs with doing the things mentioned above, as well as provide support and assist play therapists with building and maintaining a culturally and racially diverse play therapy practice, as well as share culturally and racially diverse resources. It is important for all children to feel that they are heard and seen, especially in the safe space of a play room. It is important for all children to see themselves and see others that look differently from them. All children need to see positive representations of their culture and race in all environments, including in their play therapy. As play therapists, we have an ethical responsibility and duty to represent any and all cultures and races and to be respectful of and understanding of our clients’ worldviews.
If you are a parent and/or guardian, I hope reading this has helped you to gain a better understanding on what is play therapy and how it works! If you are a play therapist, I hope reading this has encouraged you to become credentialed as a play therapist (if you are not or have not been working towards it) and/or has encouraged you to look at the items in your play room and challenge your own thoughts and interventions, using a culturally and racially sensitive lens.
Lastly, here’s an excellent video published by APT that explains what is play therapy, what are credentialed play therapists, what play therapy looks like, and how play therapy works!