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Clarifying the Use of Play Therapy
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APT would like to clarify the appropriate use of the terms “Play Therapy” and “Play Therapist”, as misuse of the terms is typically based in a limited understanding of the profession itself. APT encourages its members and registrants to share the information below to any party found to be misusing or misrepresenting their products or services as “play therapy.”

Definition of Play Therapy by the Association for Play Therapy (APT)

Play Therapy is defined by APT as “the systematic use of a 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."

Play Therapy should only be provided by graduate-level mental health professionals who have met the required education, clinical licensure, and additional specialized training and supervision specific to Play Therapy.

Play Therapy isn’t Just Play

Play Therapy is not the same as regular, everyday play. While spontaneous play is a natural and essential part of the developmental process, Play Therapy is a systematic and therapeutic approach.  Play Therapists have earned a graduate mental health degree and are licensed mental health professionals with extensive training, supervision, and education in Play Therapy. Play Therapy incorporates a growing number of evidence-based practices and techniques (SAMHSA, 2014), and should only be utilized by specially trained mental health professionals.

While some Play Therapists do not possess a specialized Play Therapy credential, a Registered Play TherapistTM (RPT), Registered Play Therapist-SupervisorTM (RPT-S), or School Based-Registered Play TherapistTM (SB-RPT) are those professionals who have met the stringent standards set by APT to become a credentialed Play Therapist. Ask to see the Play Therapist's certificate that he or she meets the requirements and is in good standing with the Association for Play Therapy.

It is unethical and misleading for other professionals who work with children/adolescents and incorporate toys or play-based techniques into their work, but are not trained Play Therapists, to represent themselves as a "play therapist". Learn more about the requirements for credentialing as a Play Therapist, or Find a Registered Play Therapist near you.