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Registered Play Therapist vs. Therapist Trained in Play Therapy

In the world of therapy, particularly when it comes to working with children, play therapy has emerged as a powerful tool for healing and growth. However, there's often confusion surrounding the qualifications of those who practice it. I wanted to take some time to write about the distinction between a Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and a therapist who is simply trained in play therapy techniques. This is not to say that a therapist who is not a RPT is not a good fit when working with children, after all I myself am not a RPT at this moment; I just want to better inform potential clients what all these acronyms means and whether that would make a difference when looking for a therapist for their child.

Registered Play Therapist (RPT):

A Registered Play Therapist is a mental health professional who has completed specialized training and supervision in play therapy. They have met the rigorous standards set forth by the Association for Play Therapy (APT) and hold a credential that demonstrates their expertise in this modality.

To become an RPT, therapists typically undergo extensive training that includes coursework in child development, psychotherapy theories, and specific play therapy techniques. As January 1, 2023, any therapist working towards becoming a RPT must have at least 150 hours of play therapy instruction or coursework; this has changed and could change in the past. They must also accumulate at least 25 hours of supervision or consultation with a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor in addition to 350 clinical hours working directly with clients using play therapy under the supervision of a qualified supervisor.

Moreover, RPTs adhere to a strict code of ethics and standards of practice established by the APT. This ensures that they provide competent and ethical services to their clients, prioritizing the well-being and needs of the children they work with.

Therapist Trained in Play Therapy:

On the other hand, a therapist who is trained in play therapy has received education and instruction in play therapy techniques but may not have pursued the additional steps required to become a Registered Play Therapist. This could mean they have attended workshops, conferences, or completed courses focused on play therapy, but they may not have undergone the comprehensive training and supervision necessary to earn the RPT credential.

While therapists trained in play therapy may still incorporate play-based techniques into their practice, they may not have the same depth of knowledge, experience, or expertise as a Registered Play Therapist. Without the oversight and accountability provided by the APT, the quality and effectiveness of their play therapy interventions may vary.

Key Differences:

1. Training and Supervision: RPTs undergo extensive training and supervision specific to play therapy, ensuring they have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively implement this modality in their practice.

2. Credentialing: RPTs hold a recognized credential from the APT, signifying their expertise in play therapy and their commitment to upholding ethical standards.

3. Accountability: RPTs adhere to a code of ethics and standards of practice set by the APT, providing clients with assurance of quality and professionalism.

Again, while therapists trained in play therapy can still offer valuable support to children and families, those seeking specialized play therapy services may benefit from working with a Registered Play Therapist who has demonstrated expertise in this area. You can always find a RPT in your area by going to the Association for Play Therapy website

Both Registered Play Therapists and therapists trained in play therapy have their strengths and can make meaningful contributions to the mental health field. However, understanding the differences between the two can help individuals make informed decisions about the type of support they seek for themselves or their loved ones. As of February 2024, I am on the third phase of completing the RPT coursework and supervision; while I have the training and supervision I am not a Registered Play Therapist until I am able to complete the coursework/training and be approved by the Association for Play Therapy to officially call myself a RPT.

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