Introduction to Play Therapy: Theory and Application

Rachel Altvater, Psy.D., RPT-S

Program Goals

This three-day workshop is an introduction to the basic concepts of multiple theoretical perspectives of play therapy. Participants will learn how play is used as a therapeutic intervention and assessment tool to help children and adolescents communicate ideas, feelings, and experiences, how play therapy is used to help children rehearse and master life skills, resolve life experiences, and how play therapy may provide a window for adults into a child’s lived experience. This training will address specific techniques for guiding, participating in, observing and interpreting, play behavior. The influences of culture, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and spirituality on play therapy will be identified. Non-verbal and verbal play therapeutic modalities will be explored.

Program Schedule

The schedule will consist of lecture, video clips, demonstrations/role plays, discussions, and experiential work.

Schedule of Day 1 – Play Therapy History & Foundations

9:00am- 09:45amMiniature Introduction Expectations & Desires for the Workshop
09:45am -10:00amPlay Therapy Introduction Explore Association for Play Therapy Website
10:00am -10:30amHistory of Play Therapy
10:30am -10:45amBREAK
10:45am - 11:15amHistory of Play Therapy Continued
11:15am - 12:00pmTherapeutic Powers of Play
12:00pm - 1:00pmBreak
01:00pm - 1:30pmPlay Therapy Across the Lifespan
01:30pm - 2:00pmExperiential – Modifying techniques across the lifespan
02:00pm - 2:30pmThe Playroom and Materials
02:30pm - 2:45pmBREAK
02:45pm - 3:15pmThe Playroom and Materials Continued
03:15pm - 4:00pmBeginning the Relationship with the Child & Family Role Play
04:00pm - 4:30pmWrap-Up and Questions

Schedule of Day 2 – Play Therapy Theoretical Orientations

09:00am – 10:30 amChild-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) Watch Dr. Landreth’s Clinical Session Break Out – Practice CCPT Skills
10:30am -10:45amBreak
10:45am -12:00pmExplore Various Directive Play Therapy Techniques (e.g., Psychoanalytic, Jungian, Adlerian Cognitive-Behavioral, Gestalt, Solution-Focused, Narrative, Filial, Theraplay, Group, Ecosystemic) Discussions, Role Plays, Experientials – Practice Various Directive Skills
12:00pm - 1:00pmLUNCH
01:00pm - 02:30pmExplore Various Directive Play Therapy Techniques (e.g., Psychoanalytic, Jungian, Adlerian Cognitive-Behavioral, Gestalt, Solution-Focused, Narrative, Filial, Theraplay, Group, Ecosystemic) Discussions, Role Plays, Experientials – Practice Various Directive Skills
02:30pm - 2:45pmBREAK
02:45pm - 4:00pmExplore Various Directive Play Therapy Techniques (e.g., Psychoanalytic, Jungian, Adlerian Cognitive-Behavioral, Gestalt, Solution-Focused, Narrative, Filial, Theraplay, Group, Ecosystemic) Discussions, Role Plays, Experientials – Practice Various Directive Skills
04:00pm - 4:30pmWrap-Up and Questions

Schedule of Day 3 – Diversity, Ethics, Documentation, and Termination

09:00am – 10:30amWorking with Diverse Populations: Children with Disabilities
10:30am -10:45amBreak
10:45am -12:00pmCulture & Diversity Considerations in Play Therapy Case Discussion
12:00pm - 1:00pmLUNCH
01:00pm - 02:30pmPlay Therapy Ethics Explore Best Practices Document, Document on Touch Case Discussions
02:30pm - 2:45pmBREAK
02:45pm - 3:00pmDocumenting Play Therapy Sessions
03:00pm - 4:00pmTermination in Play Therapy Experiential
04:00pm - 4:30pmWrap-Up and Questions

Course Objectives

By the end of the course participants will be able to:

  1. Identify essential people, theorists and organizations that shaped the history of the profession of play therapy.
  2. Navigate the Association for Play Therapy website and resources.
  3. Demonstrate foundational knowledge about the prevailing theories of play therapy.
  4. Discuss the therapeutic powers of play – 20 core agents of change.
  5. Implement play therapy interventions across the lifespan, with special consideration of development stages and unique play needs.
  6. Compare and contrast the most widely accepted theoretical models of play therapy and the formats in which they are most commonly offered (individual, group, family, etc.).
  7. Apply theoretical material to specific play therapy treatment interventions and techniques.
  8. Demonstrate basic child-centered play therapy skills, including tracking, reflection of feelings, returning responsibility to the child, responding to efforts, and setting limits.
  9. Identify developmentally appropriate play therapy toys and materials that can be incorporated into either a permanent or traveling playroom.
  10. Prepare a play therapy room that focuses on developmentally appropriate considerations and carefully selected play therapy tools.
  11. Conceptualize a play therapy client’s presenting clinical problem(s) developmentally and theoretically.
  12. Evaluate the efficacy of play therapy interventions.
  13. Identify and recognize the evolving body of qualitative and quantitative play therapy research.
  14. Apply the ethical issues that are unique to play therapy and those shared with other modalities.
  15. Identify the components of Association for Play Therapy’s Best Practices Document.
  16. Analyze issues of diversity and how they impact on every facet of play therapy, from choice of materials to the relationship with the client.
  17. Write a play therapy session note.
  18. Explain several considerations and methods to terminate with play therapy clients.

General Course Information

This course is limited to 20 participants and is designed to facilitate experiential work, group discussion, and review the present literature and practice regarding technology and play therapy.  Participants will have ample opportunity to discuss their specific needs and clinical questions. Participant feedback and participation will be sought out throughout the day.

Clinical case discussions will adhere to HIPPA regulations regarding client confidentiality.

Target audience is Mental Health Professionals, Social Workers, Psychologists, etc.

The program is Beginning Level for participants interested in obtaining foundational knowledge of play therapy.

This event is co-sponsored by Starbright Training Institute and the Institute for Continuing Education.  Starbright Training Institute is approved by the Association for Play Therapy to offer continuing education specific to play therapy (APT Provider No. 96-029).  

Additional CE units, not specific to play therapy, will be provided through the Commonwealth Educational Seminars (  There is an additional $25 fee for social work, counseling, MFT, and psychology CEs and checks are made out to Starbright Training Institute (or cash paid at training, no credit cards).

For information about continuing education credit, fees, and deadlines for cancellations/refunds, please see It is the participant's responsibility to check with their individual state boards to verify CE requirements for their state. 

Myriam Goldin, LCSW, RPT-S is Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone: 703-980-2886. Email:

Grievance Policy

Commonwealth Educational Seminars (CES) seeks to ensure equitable treatment of every person and to make every attempt to resolve grievances in a fair manner. Please submit a written grievance to: your name, email, and phone. Grievances would receive, to the best of our ability, corrective action in order to prevent further problems.

Accommodations for the Differently Abled

Starbright Training Institute’s training facilities are handicap accessible. Individuals needing special accommodations please contact the Director of Starbright Training Institute. See contact information above.

Course Instructor Contact Information

Name: Rachel Altvater, Psy.D., RPT-S

Bio: Dr. Rachel Altvater is a Licensed Psychologist in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia, Registered Play Therapist–Supervisor, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. She is the owner of Creative Psychological Health Services, a psychologist at Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, an affiliate faculty member at Loyola University Maryland, the President-Elect of the MD/DC Association for Play Therapy, and the Continuing Education Director of Starbright Training Institute. Dr. Altvater is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Alumna of the Year from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Washington DC Campus, and the 2018 Outstanding Play Therapy Research Award from the Maryland/DC Association for Play Therapy.



Phone: (443) 478-3619