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Profession Structure Model

The Profession Structure Model (PSM) builds upon the Therapeutic Play Continuum, embracing a competency framework, to provide detailed guidance for play therapy: quality management, training and development, career structure and succession/staffing planning, recruitment and selection, skills analysis, CPD, appraisal and remuneration grading and performance assessment as well as further clarification of the various roles in the profession. The PSM was originally developed by Play Therapy UK (PTUK) in 2002 and adopted by PTI in 2004. The updating is shared between PTI and PTUK including contributions from other PTI Affiliates.

Extending the Play Continuum

In developing the Play Continuum two problems became apparent:

The 12 attributes or variables used in the Play Continuum were not sufficient to define exactly what the practitioner of each application does and how well they are likely to do it. This problem is crucial when considering the management of quality of care. Some users and commissioners of play and creative arts therapies will require a more comprehensive definition in some areas. On the other hand we do not want to over complicate where it isn’t necessary.

To solve these problems PTUK felt the need for a multi level descriptive tool. A competency framework came to mind. This opens up a number of other exciting possibilities for the profession in addition to its originally intended use as an explanatory and communication tool.

Competency Frameworks

Private and public sector organisations have been developing and using competencies and competency frameworks for about 20 years. Originally competency based criteria were developed for very specific applications – one set for designing training programmes, another as a basis for remuneration scale grading etc rather as PTUK had first conceived the Play Continuum as a communications tool. However it was soon realised that a competency framework could be applied across a full range of human resource processes. We believe that it may be extended to a full range of professional processes.

A common set of criteria for all professional processes has two main benefits:

  1. It provides the basis of a common international language for describing the effectiveness of its members both internally to the profession and even more importantly externally to its clients and other ‘customers’.
  2. An opportunity to achieve a high level of consistency when measuring quality of service and assessing performance.

PTUK, with the support of PTI, led the way in using a competency framework as the basis of training standards for the play therapy professions in 2004. A major revision took place in the Autumn of 2006.

More background on competencies

The Role of a Competency Framework in Quality Management

PTI believes that ‘quality management’ perhaps better expressed as ‘clinical governance’ is fundamental to play and creative arts therapies. It is as important as safety and indeed complete safety cannot exist without clinical governance. Although outcome measures are paramount in clinical governance they are not always obtainable and therefore it is our view that activities, which can be observed, should be compared to agreed standards – a competency framework.

Competence & Competency

Sometimes there is confusion between ‘competence’ and ‘competency’. PTI uses the term ‘Competence’ as an ability based on work tasks or job outputs eg ‘Able to give a preamble to a child about to use a sand tray’ and the term ‘Competency’ as an ability based on behaviour eg ‘Sets the boundaries for a sandplay session prior to starting’. In practice many frameworks blend both together and this is how PTI has proceeded.

Competency Framework Structure

It was originally proposed to use a competency framework structure consisting of competency clusters eg working with children therapeutically, working with parents/carers, working with referrers, working with information etc Within each cluster there would be a list, sometimes very extensive, of each competency as illustrated above.

A competency would then be given one or more behavioural indicators. These are the basic building blocks of the framework. They are examples of behaviour that may be observed when someone demonstrates competency. Because the framework needs to cover a wide range of working situations (note we are not using the term ‘job’ at this point) with different degrees of demands the behavioural indicators will normally be divided into separate competency levels. For example the competence ‘Working with Information – Gathering and analysing information’ would have different levels for a work situation requiring therapeutic play skills compared to that of a manager and clinical supervisor of highly experienced play therapists.

Applications of a Competency Framework

  • Clarifying the roles of play and creative arts therapies
  • Quality management – classification and measurement of performance
  • Career structure and succession/staffing planning
  • Training and development
  • Recruitment and selection
  • Skills analysis, CPD and appraisal
  • Reward – remuneration grading and performance assessment

From Competency Framework to Structure Model

A competency framework is generally viewed as a human resource management tool. Because of the wide range of potential uses at a professional as well as individual and organisation level PTI believes that the term ‘Structure Model’ is more appropriate. In developing the PSM in 2002, PTUK took as a precedent the Industry Structure Model developed by the British Computer Society (BCS) first published in 1986. There were a number of parallels:

  • Skills in both information technology and play therapy have developed substantially in the last 40 years
  • There is a rapidly changing body of knowledge
  • Many practitioners have learnt skills on the job, through experience, rather than through academically approved courses
  • A recent realisation is that quality management is vital for professional survival

The BCS Industry Structure Model is in effect a competency framework for the whole IT industry.

PTUK combined both the competency framework and the structure model approaches by using Competency Categories (link to CompetenciesList1.htm), Competencies, Behavioural Indicators, Levels and Role Levels as the elements of the models.

Role Levels

The following roles are included in the PSM:

0 – Unskilled entrant
1 – Standard Entrant
2 – Post Graduate Entrant
3 – Initially Trained Practitioner
4 – Trained Practitioner
5 – Fully Skilled Practitioner – Certified Play Therapist
6 – Experienced General Practitioner – Accredited Play Therapist
7 – Specialist Practitioner/ Line Manager – limited scope
8 – Senior Practitioner / Line Manager
9 – Senior Manager/Director/Consultant
10-  Play Therapy Supervisor
11 – Play Therapy Trainer
12 – Filial Play Coach/Mentor

The model enables competencies and their behaviour indicators to be specified for each role and level. Each competency may be given a status according to the role level: mandatory, desirable or optional.

Dealing With Complexity

An obvious question is: “Won’t the sheer detail and complexity of the model overwhelm people and therefore it won’t be useful?”. The benefit of using different levels of elements is that users can pick the amount of detail required. A parent may well be satisfied with a selection of Groupings and Competencies. Someone recruiting a Play Therapist could use a selection from Groupings, Competencies and Behavioural Indicators. A designer of training programmes should certainly consider the full detail for each competency that is being addressed. A Director of Services may need to drill down to the status elements to devise a remuneration scale. Illustrative Example.

Continuing Development

PTUK is managing the continued development of the model on behalf of PTI and its Affiliates. This involves a number of highly experienced play therapists from a number of countries. The intellectual property rights (IPR) of the model belong to PTUK. A free licence to use is available to all current PTI and Affiliate members.

Make a Contribution

PTI welcomes constructive comments, suggested amendments and additions from all members. Please e-mail