Postgraduate Diploma in Play Therapy (part of our MA)

Our MA is the first accredited programme of its kind here in Ireland to offer a comprehensive, experiential training in Play Therapy and a professionally recognised MA qualification as a Psychotherapist with a major emphasis on the practice of Play Therapy. The course incorporates both professional and academic training. The awards are made by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). The MA is awarded by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). The QQI course code is PG21811 (9M18873). It is an IAHIP recognised course – the only child and adolescent training to achieve this status. IAHIP (Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy) is a section of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy so members will be eligible to receive the European Certificate in Psychotherapy.

Introduction to the Postgraduate Diploma element of the course
This is a two-year part-time experiential and eclectic training (part of the MA in Creative Psychotherapy (Humanistic & Integrative Modality)) with theoretical, practical and skills development components. We utilise role-play, small and large group work, lectures, presentations, discussions, creative activities, etc. It is designed for mature students who wish to engage in training in the use of creative interventions and approaches, therapeutic play, play therapy, child psychotherapy, counselling and psychotherapy. Great emphasis is put on personal development and experiential learning, skills development, supervised clinical practice, utilising action methods, active imagination, and on working in accordance with a clear theoretical framework. Core play therapy, counselling and psychotherapy trainers, and clinical supervisors, all meet the required standards for professional and academic training.

Play therapy is a developmentally sensitive therapeutic modality in which a trained play therapist uses the therapeutic powers of play to help children prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development. Play therapy is relationship based – the power of the therapy comes from the strength of the relationship between the Play Therapist and the child. “Children must be approached and understood from a developmental perspective. They must not be viewed as miniature adults. Their world is one of concrete realities and their experiences are often communicated through play. Unlike adults whose natural medium of communication is verbalization, the natural medium of communication for children is play activity. (Landreth, 1991) Play Therapists use approaches, interventions, media, and activities that are appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the client. Play permits the child to communicate with adults nonverbally, symbolically, and in an action-oriented manner.

Counselling in Action ©
This course focuses extensively on the play therapy process and the therapeutic relationship as part of the healing intervention for children, adolescents, and adults, who have experienced difficult life events or who are compromised in reaching their full potential. In addition, it takes a systemic approach, looking at the needs of young clients within their family and the broader needs of the family also. Therefore, in addition to client-centred play therapy, psychotherapy, and creative arts approaches, we include training on the counselling skills that are essential if one is to work successfully with the child within their family.

We utilise a model that incorporates the use of non-directive and focused approaches as indicated, to respond to the changing needs of the specific client as they present to us in therapy. Students will also acquire a tool-kit of therapeutic activities and interventions utilising play and the creative arts to enrich their therapy practice.

Subject Strands
The core programme is built around three subject strands:
1. Reflective Practice
2. Developing Clinical Skills
3. Theoretical Studies

Subjects in the Play Therapy Postgraduate Diploma component are:

  • Psychotherapeutic Experience: The Internal Working Model,
  • Play & Expressive Arts: Theory and Practice
  • Human Development including Play
  • Psychotherapeutic Experience: Exploring Patterns and Relationships
  • Integrative Psychotherapy and the Play Therapy Process
  • Play Therapy and Counselling: Supervised Practicum
  • A Comparative Analysis of Psychotherapy and Play Therapy Models
  • Considering Systems and Environments in Child & Adolescent Therapy

Year 1:

This focuses on developing non-directive, client-centred, play and counselling skills, a working knowledge of child development, play, relevant psychological theories and safe working practices; developing a therapeutic relationship; using therapeutic play to facilitate children in developing psychological resilience and reaching their potential (developing self confidence, self-esteem, and a strong sense of personal identity); and to intervene with clients with a range of particular needs. It has a specific focus on the personal development of the course participants to ensure development of self-awareness, growing maturity, and the development of basic counselling and listening skills. Trainees engage in a practicum to develop observational skills, and practice facilitating creative play sessions. The focus on child observation builds a foundation for developing research skills, and the myriad of approaches to therapeutic play based interventions builds skills in assessment and programme planning. In this year there are a mixture of 2, 3 and 4-day modules based around weekends as far as possible.

Year 2:

This focuses on training participants to work as play therapists with a range of clients with mild and moderate emotional problems. The initial focus is on training as a Client Centred Play Therapist, then on integrating non directive approaches with more focused interventions to assist clients to develop healthy coping skills. We introduce a variety of models of psychotherapy and play therapy, their origins, their underlying personality theories and philosophies, and practice issues. This year also covers counselling skills in more depth, developing a systemic and professional framework, working with parents and carers as ‘secondary clients’, and involves many personal development workshops utilising creative and play media and approaches. Participants are introduced to the use of creative therapy with clients of all ages; working with clients who present with specific emotional and/or behavioural difficulties (e.g. bereavement, parental separation) and/or disorders. Participants engage in Clinical Practice with children and their families, a proportion of which is clinically supervised by core trainers (included in course fee). There is a focus on developing skills in linking theory and practice including understanding themes in play, conceptualizing the therapy process with young clients, reading play as the language of the child and facilitating developmentally appropriate creative therapy sessions. In this year there are a mixture of 1, 2 and 3 day modules based around weekends as far as possible.

Personal Therapy
Each trainee must participate in Individual Therapy Sessions, a minimum of 30 per year, with an accredited psychotherapist (see IAHIP register), of their own choosing, scheduled at own convenience, over the duration of the course. The experience of being a client is vital to developing an understanding of the therapy process in an experiential way and facilitates the self-exploration and development of increased self-awareness that is central to the practice of therapy. The cost of these sessions is not included in the course fee and will be negotiated between the student and the therapist of their choosing.

There are also opportunities for personal development in the course itself and through experiential activities and relationships within the group. Group psychotherapy/process sessions take place during course time.

Clinical Practice and Supervision
Students will begin by engaging in child observation sessions, then therapeutic play sessions, then play therapy sessions with children and adolescents, support session with parents, and counselling sessions with adults, as they progress through the training and are assessed as being ready to engage in clinical work. Some clinical supervision is included in course fee, additional privately funded supervision is also required.

Professional Training Assessment Components:
• Self, peer, trainer and supervisor assessment.
• Self-awareness, maturity, and ability to work with group dynamics.
• Satisfactory participation, development and demonstration of appropriate skills and competencies in relation to each module as set and assessed by module tutors.
• Completion of course requirements and assignments to acceptable standard
• Satisfactory attendance and timekeeping.

Our Play Therapy Award

The QQI award, Postgraduate Diploma in Play Therapy, is available to those who successfully complete the 2nd year. As the QQI award is set at level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications entry is restricted to applicants who have already achieved learning outcomes associated with level 8 awards.

Registering for the QQI award: Direct Entry

For admission to the M.A. in Creative Psychotherapy (Humanistic and Integrative Modality), entrants will normally:

  • Have a 2.2 or higher in a relevant undergraduate (generally a level 8) degree (for example, though not exhaustively, social science, social care, psychology, nursing, community development, education, counseling, psychotherapy etc.) or equivalent
  • Have at least one to two years relevant professional (paid or voluntary) experience (for example, social care, counsellor, helpline worker, childcare, social work, education or nursing)
  • Be able to demonstrate personal readiness and suitability for psychotherapy training including commitment to personal & professional development and a willingness to engage in a self-reflective process that includes personal therapy
  • Successfully undertake a selection interview
  • Commit to full attendance at the course

Registering for the QQI award: Indirect Entry

A small number of applicants, with extensive relevant professional experience, who do not have honours on a suitable level 8 degree may be eligible for entry to the academic programme via Recognition of Prior Learning (e.g. completion of training that is at a lower academic level than is generally required). Such applicants must demonstrate, and provide evidence to attest to their acquisition of suitable learning outcomes in a relevant area.

Processing Applications

We begin processing applications at least six months prior to the start of the course, although applicants are advised to apply as early as possible. The first stage our process is a review of the application form and documents. A short list of applicants are selected for interview. Interviews for the course stating in June 2019 take place early in 2019 and those for the group staring in August take place from January on. When all places have been allocated the intake for the year will close and subsequent applications will be held for 2020.

The venue for many of the on-site training days is in Ballymore, (near Moate) Co. Westmeath, where we have a purpose built and fully equipped and resourced training centre. Some modules are also delivered at alternative locations (generally therapy centres) including Limerick, Claremorris and Leixlip. Library facilities are available.

Students complete their clinical practice in their own area. Fortnightly supervision (from 2nd year on) sessions take place at a variety of locations around the country.


The course fee for year one is €3990 (Year 2 is €4190), including library and access to the online portal. Trainees are facilitated in making a payment plan, to suit their individual circumstances where necessary rather than being required to pay for the year in advance although the full fee is due for each person starting on the course. An additional fee for academic registration and certification with QQI is currently set by QQI at €200 for each Level 9 award (Postgraduate Diploma (2nd yr) and MA (4th yr) and is due in April of each award year. Students are required to be insured under the Study & Protect scheme to meet QQI and legal requirements.

Course fees are eligible for tax relief under section 473A, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. Details available from Revenue (Revenue Leaflet IT 1 ‘Tax Credits, Rates and Reliefs’ and IT 31 ‘Tax Relief for Tuition Fees in respect of Third Level education) or from

Provisional Course Dates for 2019-2020

There will be two intakes in 2019. The course runs for the full day on each date. The following dates are provisional and subject to change.

Year 1, Group 1 2019: 28th June–1st July (Limerick), 16th–18th August (Westmeath), 27th–29th Sept (Limerick), 23rd – 24th Nov (Westmeath), 30th Jan -2nd Feb (Limerick), 14th-16th March (Westmeath), 16th -17th May (Westmeath)

Year 1, Group 2 2019: 23rd–26thAugust (Limerick), 12th–14th October (Westmeath), 29th Nov – 1st Dec (Limerick), 11th-12th Jan (Westmeath), 21st–23rd Feb (Limerick) 17th–19th April (Westmeath) 6th – 7th June (Westmeath)

Year 2, Group 1 2019:      6th – 8th Sept 19 (Limerick), 5th – 6th Oct (Limerick), 26th – 28th Oct (Limerick), 30th Nov & 1st Dec (Ballymore), 4th & 5th Jan 20 (Ballymore), 1st & 2nd Feb (Ballymore), 7th & 8th Mar (Ballymore), 3rd – 5th Apr (Ballymore), 18th Apr (Leixlip), 8th – 10th May (Ballymore).

Year 2, Group 2 2019:

13th – 15th Sept 19 (Limerick), 19th – 20th Oct (Limerick), 9th – 11th Nov (Limerick), 7th & 8th Dec (Ballymore), 18th & 19th Jan 20 (Ballymore), 8th & 9th Feb (Ballymore), 21st & 22nd Mar (Ballymore), 24th – 26th Apr (Ballymore), 18th Apr (Leixlip), 22nd – 24th May (Ballymore).

Safety Provisions
It will be necessary for participants be vetted by An Garda Siochana and to be covered by professional insurance cover prior to undertaking direct work with children. To be eligible for professional insurance cover (details available), each participant must be a member of the Irish Association for Play Therapy and Psychotherapy and act in accordance with their Code of Ethics ( Members of IAPTP can avail of their Garda vetting scheme.

Programme Aims of the Postgraduate Diploma in Arts in Play Therapy

  • To develop the learners’ understanding of the principles underlying play therapy and psychotherapy and develop skills in utilizing play and creative mediums in their work with appropriate clients throughout the lifespan.
  • Provide learners with knowledge, skills and competence to initiate and manage the professional delivery of play therapy and associated counselling services and practice in compliance with a relevant professional code of ethics.

Equip learners to demonstrate the expertise to work therapeutically with a wide range of individuals and groups within a variety of clinical, community and/or educational settings.

Further Details and information on other courses from: Eileen Prendiville at 087 6488149, or Facebook:
APT Approved Provider 11-294

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