Play Therapy 101: Basic Principles, Theories, and Application

Andrea McLeod, LCSW, RPT-S

Program Goals

This workshop is designed to provide a basic understanding of the historical development of play therapy as a legitimate therapeutic approach, describing the major theories of play therapy, and Axline’s foundational principles of child-centered play therapy.  This workshop will then demonstrate how directive and nondirective approaches in play therapy can be used separately or in unison and participants will have experiential opportunities to practice several play therapy principles and approaches. In addition, information will be provided on how play therapy strategies can be utilized to promote and advance therapeutic goals when working with a range of behavioral problems and concerns..  Specifically, this program will:

  • Define play therapy and provide curative aspects of play;
  • Provide theoretical frameworks for the practice of play therapy;
  • Discuss a contextual approach for providing play therapy;
  • Differentiate between directive and nondirective play therapy approaches and discuss an integrative approach;
  • Describe Axline’s basic principles of play therapy;
  • Provide guidelines for the active observation, documentation, and processing of play metaphors, symbols, and activities;
  • Offer a rationale for the integration of expressive therapies and cognitive behavioral strategies;
  • Offer opportunities for consultation of specific clinical questions utilizing verbal, audio, or video case presentations.

Program Schedule

The daily schedule will consist of didactic presentations, experiential work, clinical case presentations, and group work to process specific clinical presentations of play therapy.  

This course is presented in two full-days (six hours each day).  

Schedule of Day 1

9:00- 09:30 Introductions and needs assessment:  Participant’s “wish list”
09:30 -10:45 Didactic information will be provided on the definition of play therapy, curative aspects of play, major theories of play therapy (psychoanalytic, humanistic, behavioral, developmental, client-centered, and  mention of others such as Gestalt, filial, etc)
10:45 -11:00 Break
11:00 -12:00 Review of videotapes illustrating play therapy models Child-centered play therapy (Garry Landreth) Developmental play therapy (Theraplay model)
12:00 - 1:00 LUNCH
01:00 - 2:30 Discussion of Axline’s principles of child-centered play, Experiential exercise
02:30 - 2:45 Break
02:45 - 4:30 Continuation of Axline’s basic principles of nondirective play therapy and the benefits of nondirective play

Schedule of Day 2

09:00 – 10:30 Directive play therapy techniques:  When therapists set the agenda Experiential exercise
10:30 -10:45 Break
10:45 -12:00 Identifying play themes in assessment and treatment planning
12:00 - 1:00 LUNCH
01:00 - 02:30 Setting up a play therapy office:  Suggested toys for symbolic utilization
02:30 - 2:45 BREAK
02:45 - 4:30 Questions and answers

Course Objectives

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

  • Name two major theories of play therapy;
  • List four of Axline’s basic principles of play therapy;
  • Define play therapy and differentiate from generic play;
  • Give a rationale for the integration of play therapy and other expressive
  • techniques  with cognitive behavioral strategies;
  • Describe three specific play therapy techniques to be utilized for assessment;
  • Give an example of how specific therapy goals can be advanced through the use of play therapy;
  • List two benefits of play therapy;
  • Discuss two ways to involve the family in play therapy.

General Course Information

This course is limited to 15 participants and is designed to facilitate experiential work, group discussion, and processing of clinical material.  Participants will have ample opportunity to discuss their specific needs and clinical questions. Participant feedback will be sought out throughout the two- day class.

Continuing Education Credits:  Starbright Training Institute is an Approved Provider with the Association for Play Therapy (Provider #) and is approved to provide Continuing Education Credits related to play therapy.  STI maintains responsibility for the program. Starbright Training Institute has contracted with Commonwealth Educational Seminars ( to provide CEUs in the professional categories of Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology, and Professional Counseling.  (Please note that CEUs for LPCs is only available in VA but not for MD or DC).


Andrea Driggs McLeod is a full-time psychotherapist with Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education.  Previously she spent many years working in the DC public school system and specializes in working with young traumatized children and their families. Andrea is a Certified Child-Centered Play Therapist and a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor.

Phone: 513-312-8609  


General Course Information

This course is limited to 15 participants and is designed to facilitate experiential work, group discussion, and processing of clinical material. Participants will have ample opportunity to discuss their specific needs and clinical questions. Participant feedback 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

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 $30 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.


Web Page:


Athena A. Drewes

Blending Play Therapy with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Evidence-Based and Other Effective Treatments and Techniques. 2009.

Dee Ray

Advanced Play Therapy: Essential Conditions, Knowledge, and Skills for Child Practice 1st Edition. 2011.

Judith S. Beck

Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond 2nd Edition. 2011.

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: Andrea McLeod LCSW, RPT-S. Andrea is a Certified Child Centered Play Therapist, is a foundational level Theraplay practitioner, and is a Registered play therapy supervisor. . She currently works at Gil Institute.
Phone: 513-312-8609