The PTUK systemic model of play therapy practice shows the context for setting standards and the central role of competencies.
Safe and effective practice must be based primarily on the needs of the children coupled with the needs of the organisation or agency (school, social services, primary care trust, adoption, parents, carers etc) commissioning the service. The practitioner needs to be trained to the highest possible standards based on well defined competencies and have suitable personal qualities and attributes. Play therapy needs to be conducted in a safe and appropriate environment. These factors are generic for all countries.
Practice has to be constrained within statutory requirements and standards and an ethical system. These will vary from country to country but needs to be a part of the training. A play therapist needs to be supported and monitored through clinical supervision.
It is also important that practitioners have support from a national professional organisation such as PTUK, PTIrl, PTFr, PTEsp or from an established international organisation, such as Play Therapy International (PTI) where a national organisation does not yet exist.
Both practice and the competencies on which the training is based must be founded on a sound play therapy evidence base. A flexible method is needed to ensure that the competencies meet the practice needs of the client group, organisation and country efficiently, taking account of culture, ethnic factors, the resources available and baselines.
Learning objectives to meet the needs of the practitioner and organisation should then be derived from an agreed catalogue of competencies and their related behaviour indicators (explained below in detail). The learning objectives are attained through a life-long learning process that must be evaluated on at least four levels.
The system shown in the model contains a closed loop. The results obtained in practice after training are measured through clinical governance procedures, used to provide practice based evidence which in turn contributes to the evidence base used for practice and training.
This article concentrates on especially critical parts of the model for setting standards: