Play Therapy

Study Play Therapy Online. Learn the theory and applications for all ages, as a therapy for anxiety, depression, physical rehabilitation, behavioural, developmental, social disorders, and more.

Course Code: BRE214
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Apply Play Therapy for emotional or physical healing

The Play Therapy course is relevant to all ages - even adults can benefit from play.

When an injury damages muscles, or inhibits the use of muscles for a period; play may be a pathway to reeducate those muscles to again move as they once did.

When a person suffers stress, and anxiety or depression takes over, play can sometimes be a pathway to regain motivation and emotional stability. Like other types of therapy, play therapy helps to reduce or eliminate negative or maladaptive behaviours whilst encouraging the use of positive or adaptive ones.

When you learn about play therapy with ACS Distance Education, you will understand how to lead play therapy and is a great addition for your professional development.


Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. The Foundation for Using Play Therapy
    • Introduction
    • Brief History of Play Therapy
    • What is play -Functional Approach, Structural Approach, Play-Criterion Approach
    • Play and Cognitive Development
    • Play and Social Development
    • Play and Physical Activity
    • Language Play
    • Value of play
    • Play therapy defined
    • Approaches to Play Therapy - Non directive, directive, integrative
    • Axline’s Principles
    • Landreth’s Perspective
    • The Role of the Play Therapist
    • Play Therapy and Adults
    • Scope of play therapy
  2. Applications for Play and Play therapy
    • Therapeutic Play continuum - play, pla-work, therapeutic pla-work, therapeutic play, filial play, play therapy, child psychotherapy
    • Application of play therapy
    • Who is play therapy for
    • Background Information
    • Choice of toys and materials
    • Other Techniques
    • Age Appropriate Choices
    • Aggressive Toys
    • Toys to Avoid
    • Cultural considerations
    • Creating the right environment
    • Session Times
    • Playroom
    • Advantages
    • Research in Support of Play Therapy
    • Issues with play therapy
    • Problems Arising During Therapy
  3. Play Therapy for Anxiety and Depressive Disorders
    • Anxiety Disorders
    • Separation Anxiety Disorder
    • Selective Mutism
    • Specific Phobias
    • Other Anxiety Problems
    • Social Anxiety
    • School Anxiety
    • Symptoms
    • Treatment
    • Cognitive behaviour Therapy
    • Limitations of CBT
    • Medication
    • Limitations of Medication
    • Use of Play Therapy
    • Using play therapy to reduce anxiety in children
    • Tracking
    • CBT and play therapy for anxiety
    • Major depressive disorder
    • SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
    • Bipolar I & II Disorders
    • Cyclothymic Disorder
    • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
    • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
    • Persistent Depressive Disorder
    • Symptoms
    • Counselling & Medication treatments
    • Use of Play Therapy
    • Play therapy with children and adults with depression
  4. Play Therapy for Behavioural Disorders
    • Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder
    • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
    • Conduct Disorder - child onset. adolescent onset
    • Use of Play Therapy
    • ADHD - what it is, play therapy application
  5. Play Therapy for Developmental Disorders
    • Cascading Effect
    • Working with Children with Developmental Disorders
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • Difficulties in Social Development and Interactions
    • Abnormal Communication
    • Repetitive Behaviour
    • Intellectual Disability
    • Physical Disability
    • Cerebral Palsy
    • Use of Play Therapy with Cerebral Palsy
    • Learning Disorders & Use of Play Therapy
    • Concrete Play Metaphors
    • Clay Therapy
    • Colour and Drawing Therapy
  6. Play Therapy for Social and Family Problems
    • Types of Family & Social Problems
    • Trauma
    • Abuse and Neglect
    • Effects of Abuse
    • Attachment Disorder
    • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Grief and Loss
    • Divorce
    • Death of a parent
    • Other Factors - Schooling, Location
    • Use of Play Therapy for Trauma or Abuse
    • Ball Play, Sculpting and drawing
  7. Play Therapy and Adult Populations
    • Introduction
    • Play Therapy For Adults
    • Research Supporting Use of Play Therapy with Adults
  8. Related Specialised Creative Therapies
    • Introduction
    • Music Therapy
    • Art Therapy
    • Drama Therapy
    • Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT)
  9. Play and Rehabilitation
    • Introduction
    • Injury and Illness
    • Disability
    • Science and Technology

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the purpose for using play therapy, potential of what it might achieve, and determine situations where it is appropriate to use it as a therapeutic technique.
  • Explain the therapeutic play continuum, applications of play and play therapy, play therapy tools, advantages and issues arising in therapy.
  • Explain how play therapy can be used to help children with emotional disturbances such as depression and anxiety disorders.
  • Explain how play therapy can be used to help children with behavioural disorders such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and problems with anger and impulse control.
  • Explain how play therapy can be used to treat developmental disorders such as autism, intellectual disability and learning disorders.
  • Determine appropriate uses of play therapy for children suffering from social and family related problems such as grief and loss, crises such as divorce, and trauma-related issues.
  • Determine uses of play therapy to assist adult populations with specific emotional and psychological problems which can benefit from play.
  • Explain a range of different but closely related therapies including music, art, and drama therapy, and techniques used in these therapies which are incorporated into play therapy.
  • Explain how play can be used in occupational therapy and other contexts to help people manage or rehabilitate from physical and mental disabilities, and the role of science and technology.


Like other types of therapy, play therapy helps to reduce or eliminate negative or maladaptive behaviours whilst encouraging the use of positive or adaptive ones. Some of the benefits attributed to play therapy include:

  • Improved mood and positive feelings
  • Better coping skills
  • Enhanced problem solving
  • Less internal conflict and stress
  • Greater self-awareness
  • Increased impulse control
  • Appropriate emotional expression
  • Improved verbal skills
  • Better communication
  • Improved social skills
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Greater trust of others
  • Increased maturity



  • Health Professionals
  • Playleaders
  • Therapists
  • Counsellors
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Toy and Game Designers, Manufacturers or Retailers



Encouraging play in children seems obvious to most people; but often the relevance of play for adults is easily overlooked.
Play is something which all healthy children partake in to some degree or other. However, older teenagers and adults especially have often lost their ability for play other than perhaps for games with rules. Play therapy for adults can be used help them relearn the value of play.

Playful exploration has been shown to enhance both cognitive and physical behaviours. There is research from the fields of neurophysiology and molecular biology to support a role for play therapy as a therapeutic tool for adults. Although as with children, play is not going to suit all adults and may only be appropriate for limited situations and circumstances more research has been undertaken in recent years into its application as a therapeutic tool for adults. It may be that play therapy has been overlooked previously where it could potentially have been beneficial to some individuals so it shouldn’t automatically be ruled out as developmentally inappropriate without proper assessment and consideration.

How Can Play Therapy Help?

Play therapy for adults assumes that adults still retain child-like representations of the world and can make use of non-verbal expression. Through the use of play, adults of all ages can get in touch with their inner selves and work through problems such as traumas from childhood.

Some of the reported benefits of play therapy with adult populations include enhanced relationships, optimised learning, and better overall improve health and wellbeing. Play therapy with adults may be at its most efficacious when used in conjunction with other types of treatment.

Donaldson (1993) advocated the use of play therapy with adults in situations where traditional talking therapies may be less effective. In particular, it was proposed that play therapy may be of value to adults with arrested emotional development, those with developmental difficulties which continued into adulthood, and where co-morbid mental health problems existed in these groups.

Areas where play therapy has been used with adult populations include:

  • Dementia 
  • Grief and loss
  • Arrested emotional development
  • Problems associated with developmental disorders 
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder 
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Principal John Mason has been honoured to be awarded a Fellow of Parks and Leisure Australia, having been an active member since 1974.
Principal John Mason has been honoured to be awarded a Fellow of Parks and Leisure Australia, having been an active member since 1974.
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
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This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

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We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

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Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Jacinda Cole (Psychologist)

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist.
B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA
Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. She has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Jacinda has worked for ACS for over 10 years.

Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.

John Mason

Writer, Manager, Teacher and Businessman with over 40 years interenational experience covering Education, Publishing, Leisure Management, Education, and Horticulture. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner.
John is a well respected member of many professional associations, and author of over seventy books and of over two thousand magazine articles.

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