Healthcare: Mental Health Through Play

APT strengthened its credentialing program to ensure that children who exhibit developmental issues or suffer from other social-emotional stressors have access to a licensed play therapist.

Healthcare • Association for Play Therapy

Play is a child’s natural comfort zone, which makes it a powerful tool for mental health professionals treating children who have experienced abuse, exhibit behavioral or developmental issues, or suffer from other social-emotional stressors.

Play therapy is essential to getting children back to a healthy level of functioning.

“Children’s play helps them communicate what they have experienced, what they’re going through, and where they are developmentally to mental health professionals,” says Kathryn Lebby, CAE, president and CEO of the Association for Play Therapy. “Play therapy is essential to getting children back to a healthy level of functioning.”

APT credentials licensed mental health professionals—including counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, and social workers—as specialists in play therapy. “Traumatized children represent the most vulnerable population there is,” says Lebby, adding that “working with any child in developmentally inappropriate ways can do more harm than good.”

In January, APT revamped its credentialing program, enhancing face-to-face training requirements. It includes in-person instruction, practical experience, and supervisors witnessing the sessions and providing feedback. In 2016, APT created a new credential specifically for school-based counselors, psychologists, and social workers who frequently see kids with developmental and family issues. Because they have greater access to kids than traditional mental health professionals do, this credential helps expand the population of children who can benefit from play therapy.

APT was established in 1982, and the credentialing standards it has set have become an international baseline. By strengthening these credentials, the association is promoting children’s access to an expanding number of highly qualified play therapists.

(mmpile/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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