Play Therapy is just what it sounds like, where therapeutic interventions are applied to your child through play-based modalities. Play is the native language of all children, and play therapy simply seeks to use that language to help maximize their development and move them healthily through various life challenges.
Play therapy has a long history in the field of mental health, dating back nearly a century. I personally take an eclectic approach to play therapy, but have been influenced mostly by dynamic approaches to play therapy, using an object-relations framework. My play therapy training started my first year as a doctoral student at Baylor University, when I studied under Dr. Helen Benedict, a world-reknowned play therapist best known for her object-relations play therapy that she uses with young children who have experienced chronic and complex traumatic stress. Under Dr. Benedict, I learned numerous approaches to play therapy, and over time I eventually began to develop my own technique, which I have called Fantasy-Exposure Life-Narrative Therapy (or FELT).
FELT is an evidence-based play therapy on which I have conducted 6-years of research now. FELT combines directive and non-directive approaches to play therapy. In FELT, I present children with general and targeted "story stems," which allows me to structure the play toward a child's specific presenting problem (the reasons they are seeing me), while still keeping the play open-ended enough to allow the child freedom to express themselves as they wish through play. In FELT, I analyze themes in the child's play and work together with your child to direct play toward healthy outcomes. Years of research has discovered certain play themes that seem to differentiate "clinical" children (those with a mental health diagnosis) from "non-clinical" children (those without a a mental health diagnosis). Thus, in FELT, the therapists' job is to identify clinically significant themes in a child's play and then work to correct them by teaching the child adaptive play responses that tend to lead toward positive development.
Of course, this process is more complicated than what it described above, and there is a lot that goes into FELT that I don't have space to describe here. However, interested readers can learn more about FELT by reading my FELT publications, or by asking me in person.
PLAY THERAPY CREDENTIALS
There are various credentials available within the play therapy community, managed by the Association for Play Therapy of the United States.
The most common, classic credentials are Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and Registered Play Therapist - Supervisor (RPT-S), with RPT-S being the higher credential, bestowed upon those who not only meet criteria for the RPT credential but who also have shown enough expertise that they can supervise other play therapists too. The specific credentials can be found here.
Some parents may be interested to know if I hold an RPT credential. I do not, although based on my background and experiences I would qualify, if I applied, for the RPT-S credential. The application for the RPT credential involves an application fee, and there is an annual cost to renew the credential. Thus, the reason I have elected not to pursue and/or maintain the RPT-S credential is mainly a financial one. I have elected to focus my funds elsewhere.