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Accredited Programme - MA in Practice Based Play Therapy

This Master level play therapy training programme has been clinically accredited by PTI. and is validated for academic standards by the Leeds Beckett University run in a collaborative partnership with APAC.

There isn’t a statutory requirement for a Masters (MA) level of qualification in order to practice as a Play Therapist in the majority of countries or states. Indeed PTI has no evidence that a practitioner with a Masters produces better clinical work than those who have trained to PTI’s Diploma level. However in some areas, especially North America, it is either specified by employers or a government agency. This may develop as a trend in other countries.

PTI therefore accredits a Master level course in order that successful participants may:

  • Obtain a Masters for personal development reasons
  • Enhance their remuneration – some employers link salary to academic qualifications
  • Contribute, through their research, to the development of the play therapy profession
  • Prepare for the eventuality that a Masters degree will be required by a regulating/registration body in order to practice at some time in the future
A recognised MA (Masters) degree awarded by Leeds Beckett University will:

  • Provide considerable satisfaction through the achievement of the award
  • Establish you as an authority on your subject
  • Continue your career and personal development
  • Be attractive to employers and commissioners of play therapy services
  • Increase your chances of an increase in remuneration and promotion
  • Open up new opportunities in training and academic careers
  • Enable you to do something about your passion for a topic

Blended learning methods

APAC has developed an online route by which you may gain your MA in Play Therapy.

The advantages of the blended learning route are:

  • Work at home, at your own pace – study is more enjoyable
  • No travel and accommodation costs – save money
  • No time away from home needed – less hassle in your domestic life
  • Personalised Academic Supervisor and Tutor support – based on your individual learning style
  • More efficient drafting of your research proposal and dissertation including access to the unique PTI/PTUK database of play therapy clinical outcomes – less time required and better quality work

The blended learning methods, include on-line availability of structured course material, electronic transmission of assignments and feedback, personal tuition and support by your Academic Supervisor by phone, email or Skype, electronic discussion group, etc. These replace the conventional lectures and seminars that are used on the traditional routes. Specialist Academic Supervisors and Tutors for topics such as sandplay, art, music, dance and movement, clay and working with infants, are available for your support – via the internet wherever you live.

Title Description
Designed For The course is designed for Play Therapists, or those with an equivalent qualification, wishing to receive the academic MA in Practice Based Play Therapy award from the Leeds Beckett University by means of a dissertation.

  • Counsellors

  • Psychotherapists

  • Clinical Psychologists

  • Primary School Teachers/Assistants

  • Nurses

  • Nursery School Teachers/Assistants

  • Social Workers

  • Play School Teachers/Assistants

  • Care Home Staff

  • Adoption/Foster Agency Workers

This course is the third part of a programme leading to an MA in Practised Based Play Therapy by dissertation. It is at stage 4 of the PTI four stage training model

Synopsis This exciting new programme, a world first, has been designed to improve the learning experience of participants. It is based on our six years of delivering a Masters programme using conventional teaching methods. For example: the task of preparing a high quality, detailed research proposal and plan, which to some has appeared at first sight to be overwhelming, is now made much more straightforward by breaking it down into easier stages, each with personal tutor support.

Our new APAC Learning Management System (ALMS) makes it easier for you to manage your work with the help of your Academic Supervisor. Our experience shows that getting the research proposal ‘right’ is absolutely crucial.

By helping you to concentrate on the comprehensiveness and quality of the proposal’s research methods you will need less time to carry out your research and draft your dissertation. The course will provide a springboard for students to understand and apply research methodology to a variety of play therapy related scenarios, and understand approaches to evidence-based practice. For instance, how can research be used to inform policy and practice and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and programmes? As play therapy is an emerging profession, it is essential that practitioners enhance its establishment by developing high quality research capability to create new models of practice that serve to improve the quality of therapeutic interventions for some of the most marginalised and troubled children.

Students will explore the purposes and values of research by studying a hierarchy of positivist, qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods techniques to analyse practice experiences. The course will provide the knowledge and skills for postgraduates to: produce a research proposal for ethical approval and research governance; design and implement a research programme, choosing the most appropriate methods to produce a play and creative arts therapy related dissertation.

Dissertation The Dissertation takes the form of a final professional paper of approximately 12,000 words. Students are required to develop a clinical philosophy based upon an integrative approach using both non-directive and directive perspectives. This is to be related to an understanding and implementation of preferred therapeutic models. Students are required to apply this clinical philosophy to a specific aspect of working therapeutically with children.

Original research may be either qualitative or quantitative in nature. Students have up to 2 years to complete their dissertation.

  • in addition students will be expected to present and submit dissertations in accordance with accepted conventions of academic writing and in accordance with the requirements set out in the University’s published Dissertation Guidelines
  • the Dissertation must be of publishable quality in terms of written accuracy
Course Structure & Learning Outcomes The course consists of two modules:

Developing a Research Proposal

A 4000 word research proposal. Working within the limits of what is viable within a nine month or year long, dissertation-based research project; the proposal will address a subject of the student’s own choosing, highlighting the philosophical, conceptual and strategic processes necessary to design and implement a robust and ethical research study.

By the end of the module students will be able to:

Identify an area of play and creative arts therapies research (education, health and social care practice) that needs systematic investigation and present a clear rationale for the proposed research

Critically analyse the ethical dimensions of research, highlighting methods of engaging participants in ways that respect their rights and needs

Defend the aim of the proposed study and the research question(s) and selection of a research paradigm and research approach

Anticipate the type(s) of data that are likely to result from the proposed study and critically evaluate their relevance to the aim of the study and the research question(s)

Producing a Research Dissertation

A dissertation/project report of 12,000 words which is organised into discrete chapters to meet the learning outcomes.

By the end of the module students will be able to:

  1. Organise documentation to convey clearly and accurately the processes undertaken and what has been achieved
  2. Critically evaluate relevant literature utilising an appropriate theoretical framework and prior empirical studies
  3. Select and justify an appropriate research design, sample population and data collection instruments and adopt a critical, ethically sensitive stance towards the conduct of the research study
  4. Summarise, analyse and interpret data using suitable statistical or other tools where appropriate
  5. Synthesise findings in relation to theoretical perspectives, prior empirical studies and professional practice issues
Learning & Teaching Strategies: This blended learning course will be offered through a series of on line ‘sessions’ which will deliver the core material, paralleling the existing course which uses traditional teaching methods. Each session will be of indeterminate time as students will be able to work at their own pace but, in general, each session will have enough material requiring at least 5 hours of study. In addition, the course will be supported by a series of directed learning tasks to allow practical exploration of analysis and interpretation of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods approaches to research. Additionally, there will be on line group work, including formative presentations of research papers and case study approaches to play and creative arts therapies interventions. Students will also have ready access to an on line tutor for regular discussions and supervision.

Students will be required to read around the topic before each session. Suggested texts will be given against the session content. Optional assessments will be used to check their knowledge as a part of progressive monitoring.

On line learning is a well established technique and allows students the opportunity to work at their own pace but have regular contact with each other and their tutor. Work may be posted on a regular basis and tasks allocated. When undertaking learning over the internet students access and share information, and engage in discussions through a computer and a modem.

Blended learning, which includes E-Learning can be described as an approach that offers a third medium for learning. It is different from distance learning courses that require students to work alone at home processing information that has been posted to them. E- Learning, on the other hand, is more akin to the classroom experience because it involves students working together synchronously and asynchronously, learning and sharing experiences as part of an online community of learners. Although the technology exists via the use of web cams and conferencing for students to physically observe each other on line, e-learning students are not physically together but rather virtually together on line. In e-learning the lecture hall is replaced by the virtual lecture hall. E-learning, therefore, is qualitatively different from distance learning or classroom based learning.


  • Further develop students’ conceptual, theoretical and methodological models in the design and implementation of play therapy-related research at MA level.
  • Refresh informed play therapy practice by extending the understanding of research methodology and differing approaches learned at Certificate and Diploma stages.
  • To provide methodologies for Master’s level research to answer a unique question(s) that will take the play therapy profession forward
  • To encourage students to debate the nature of play and creative arts therapies research, including therapeutic media, conditions, settings, systemic factors and related topics
  • To enhance students ability to appraise the literature underpinning the evidence base for children’s therapeutic interventions
  • To integrate and apply research principles to a play and creative arts therapies related topics
Outline Syllabus
Session Session Outline
Developing a Research Proposal – (20 M Points)
Pre course Prior reading to prepare for session 1
1 Overview of the programme – concepts of research

Course requirements

The current state of play and creative arts therapies research?

Revision of Certificate & Diploma research material

Keeping a research diary

The systemic view of play therapy

Choosing a research topic

The importance of questions

2 Searching for information

Internet search methods

Effective and efficient reading

Storing citations (RefWorks or EndNote)

Writing a literature review – good practice … and pitfalls!

3 Epistemology and Research Design

Overview of Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods : using theory to generate a research problem; designing a study, design problems;

The importance of data triangulation

Ethical considerations and research governance

4 Qualitative Research Methods

The ethics & logic of qualitative research; phenomenology; ethnography; interviews and discourse analysis; grounded theory; transcripts and conversation analysis.

5 Quantitative & Mixed Research Methods

The ethics of quantitative research; hypotheses; observation; surveys; questionnaire based research

The Single Case method

Linking to the PTI database of clinical outcomes – using the PTI taxonomy (comparison with the DSM & ICD)

Sampling strategies and questionnaire design

Psychometric instruments – availability and design considerations

Data conversion

6 Validity and reliability; claims to validity in field research; testing hypotheses.

Analysis and synthesis

7 Reflection/feedback on proposals
8 Writing a research dissertation; structure:-, title, abstract, contents, introduction, method, design, subjects, procedure, results and recommendations

Presentation requirements

Individual tutorial support and academic supervision

Venues This course is offered at present by APAC in the UK and PTIrl in Ireland.
Award MA in Practice Based Play Therapy awarded by the Leeds Beckett University

The successful completion of the dissertation carries 60 ‘M’ points.

Students successfully completing all three parts of the programme (Post Graduate Certificate in Therapeutic Play, Post Graduate Diploma in Play Therapy and the MA by dissertation) will be awarded a total of 180 ‘M’ points.

Duration The Dissertation may be written at your own pace, typically taking 12 – 18 months but remember that it must also be completed within 6 years of starting your PG Certificate course.

The course also includes 3 individual and 1 group supervisions to provide guidance upon the topic (per year). Specialist optional advanced 3 day modules will be available for further support in the chosen subject areas.

Fees Please check with your chosen training provider above. Additional tutorials (at an additional cost) are available on specialist subjects if required.
Dates Please check with your chosen training provider.
Faculty / Facilitators Chosen from a faculty of presenters accredited by PTI, APAC and approved by Leeds Beckett University.