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Our History

Canadian Roots

In 1985, the founding efforts of two key Canadians in the field of child psychology and play therapy, Mark Barnes and Cynthia Taylor, resulted in the establishment of Certification Standards through the non-profit Canadian child psychotherapy and play therapy association which set the pace for a professional approach to play therapy. To this end a fledgling group of practising Canadian child psychotherapists and play therapists worked on developing an organization to meet professional needs. It gradually expanded and eventually a Board of Directors was formed; objects and by-laws were designed, revised, re-revised and finally approved by the Government of Canada. The Canadian association was eventually recognized as a non-profit organization in 1986.

Initial Board representation came from Charlottetown, Kingston, Toronto, Cambridge, Ottawa and Peterborough. This was the first professional body in the world to offer a national program of Certification in Child Psychotherapy and Play Therapy that involved rigorous and credible professional standards.

In its first 2 years of growth the Canadian Certification program captured a great deal of public and media attention with newspaper articles in virtually every major Canadian city as well as several American cities. There were television and radio interviews broadcast throughout Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia in such cities as Los Angeles, Denver, Houston, Miami, St. Louis, Toronto, Zurich Switzerland, New York, Melbourne Australia, to name but a few. The media focused special attention on the child psychotherapy and play therapy Certification process and the technique of sandplay.

Over the first few years of Canadian Certification history, programs for brief training in play therapy began to be offered, mainly in the province of Ontario and on the east coast. Requests began to come in from all over North America and efforts expanded to bring play therapy to a wider audience.


A significant organization in Canada has been the Canadian Play Therapy Institute (CPTI. In the 1980s a full training program was established at a Children’s Mental Health Centre in Canada under the directorship of the late Mr. Shige Morita, MSW. Here, a professional could enter a 2 year training program and upon completion, would have met all of the clinical practise and play therapy academic requirements for Certification. This Children’s Mental Health Centre was a provincially publicly funded program and, unfortunately, this centre and the training program closed as they became some of the many victims of funding restraints.

However, the staff and faculty involved in the Centre’s training programs felt strongly about the need for training in children’s mental health treatment. Thus, a new independent centre, The Canadian Play Therapy Institute (CPTI), was established to offer accredited training opportunities in child psychotherapy, play therapy, and other mental health issues. CPTI brought together some of the key Canadian and International professionals under the umbrella of one organization to provide travelling training programs in play therapy. To assist those in isolated settings, the Canadian Institute became the first organization in the world with an accredited (by CACPT and IBECPT) academic program of distance education in child psychotherapy and play therapy.

Continuing its pioneering efforts and remaining on the cutting edge of the field, The Canadian Play Therapy Institute was the first child psychology and play therapy organization in the world to go on the internet with its own website located at is the first version of this site.


During 1995/1996, a whole new horizon opened up for the profession of play therapy as a result of the Canadian Play Therapy Institute’s pioneering efforts on an International basis. Faculty members of CPTI were inundated with an increasing and overwhelming number of international requests for training programs throughout the world. However, time and energy were being taken away from the Canadian Institute. Thus, as a result of this pressure and demand, an entirely separate and new organisation, The International Society for Child and Play Therapy/Play Therapy International (and The International Board of Examiners of Certified Play Therapists) was founded to meet international needs. As a result of intensive efforts throughout the world, Play Therapy International was established.

There now existed a mutually supportive recognition between Play Therapy International/The International Board of Examiners of Certified Play Therapists, The Canadian Play Therapy Institute, as well as a number of other professional bodies throughout the world. We feel that such mutual support is highly beneficial for the field overall and gives a highly professional image to the work that we all do. All such teamwork serves to help the children we are dedicated to serving.

Certification now became available on an international basis through the International Board of Examiners of Certified Child and Play Therapists. The standards for International Certification are extremely high — the highest in the world — and offer highly qualified professionals the recognition they deserve. Once again, Canada was a leader in their participation in the formation of this International organization.

UK Developments 2000 - 2003

The United Kingdom Society for Play and Creative Arts Therapies Limited (known in short as PTUK) was originally set up in October 2000 as Play Therapy UK with the encouragement of PTI. It was established as an alternative governing body and professional organisation in the UK to provide a choice for practitioners of and anyone interested in using therapeutic play, play therapy or creative arts therapies to help children with emotional literacy, behaviour and mental health problems.

It was felt, by a number of practitioners at that time in the UK, that then solely existing professional association was too restrictive in its membership criteria, had course accreditation standards that did not meet the needs to produce the large numbers of safe and effective practitioners that are required in the United Kingdom and was insufficiently open or innovative in its policies. Since then PTUK has grown to be the largest organisation in the UK in the field of therapeutic play and play therapy and has a proud record of innovation.

In 2001 PTUK introduced the ‘Spectrum of Needs’ and ‘Therapeutic Play Continuum’ concepts that recognise that children have a wide range of emotional, behaviour and mental health problems and that professionals with a variety of interventions and skill levels can safely and effectively alleviate these conditions. A new Ethical System was introduced to provide better protection for both the public and therapists. This incorporates an ethical framework, professional conduct procedure and a clinical governance requirement which placed the PTUK in the forefront of setting high professional standards for Europe.

In the Autumn the first issue of the ‘Play for Life’ four colour A4 practitioner journal was published by PTUK.

PTUK then developed, in 2002, the Profession Structure Model (PSM), based on a competency framework, using the experience of a number of international play therapists. This was the first major innovation concerning the organisation of the profession since it started in the UK.

At this time PTUK had a close, but informal, link to Play Therapy International (PTI) to share best practice around the world. The web site was launched and development started on the SEPACTO research project , funded by PTUK, development started.

Separation of PTI & IBECPT

In 2003 the Board of PTI decided to split into two independent organisations:

  1. IBECPT headquartered in Ontario, Canada with Tom Turner as President
  2. PTI which moved its head office to the UK with Monika Jephcott elected as President. and was reformed as a British organisation

PTI was given the specific remit of expanding the adoption of play therapy in countries outside North America, its previous main sphere of influence. The innovations and developments of PTI and PTUK were merged. PTUK became the first organisation officially affiliated to PTI. Play for Life’ became the PTI journal of play therapy practice.

PTUK accredits the first MA in Practised Based Play Therapy programme in the UK, designed and run by the Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy (APAC), a sister organisation of PTUK, in a collaborative partnership with the University College Chichester (UCC). This is a modular post graduate play therapy training programme in three parts: Certificate in Therapeutic Play Skills, Diploma in Play Therapy and MA (Masters) by Dissertation. This programme subsequently grew from 30 students a year to over 500 in the space of 3 years. It has become the world’s most successful, coherent and comprehensive play therapy training programme. The collaborative partnership with UCC was transferred to Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) to cope with the large increase in students.

Policies for International Growth

PTUK in association with PTI organised the 2004 World Congress in Play Therapy at Chichester, Engalnd. This was the largest international event of its type held anywhere with over 70 workshops/sessions and attended by over 400 delegates from 29 countries.

In 2004 PTI embarked upon a major change of direction. As a result of consultations at the World Congress PTI stated its four main guiding principles:

Universality. We will work with any organisation in any country that has objectives similar to PTI, namely the improvement of children’s emotional state, behaviour and mental health. PTI recognises that there is a spectrum of needs that may be met safely by a variety of interventions and levels of skills.

Autonomy. Each country has its own culture, social structure, statutory requirements etc and priorities. It is vital, in our view, that the organisations representing the profession in each country are completely autonomous. It is very important that each country should have its own national organisation – not a branch governed by a remote office in a country that does not fully understand the country’s needs.

Affiliation. PTI, as the first internationally orientated body in the field, uses its experience and resources to encourage and support the start up and growth of sister organisations around the world through affiliation. PTI will allocate funds each year to subsidise the start up of embryonic national organisations.

Professionalism. In order to gain the respect of the public and to satisfy regulation requirements any organisation recognised by PTI must meet certain management as well as therapeutic criteria and demonstrate commitment. PTI provides considerable support in this area including:

  • The adaptation of training and education standards based on the minimum competencies required for safe practice
  • Certification requirements
  • Ethical frameworks and procedures
  • Co-ordination of research

The benefits of an affiliation policy are considerable.

Recent History

The immediate impact of the 2004 ‘Chichester’ principles were the establishment of three affiliates: Play Therapy Ireland (2004), Play Therapy Romania (2005) and Play Therapy Canada (2005).

In 2006 financial and management support has been provided to set up:

  • Play Therapy France (Therapie de Jeu)
  • Play Therapy Germany (Spiel Therapie Deutschland)
  • Play Therapy Malaysia
  • Play Therapy Russian Federation
  • Play Therapy Slovenia
  • Play Therapy Spain (Terapia de Juego)

In 2007/09 further affiliates were set up:

  • Play Therapy Australasia
  • Play Therapy Africa
  • Play Therapy Hong Kong

PTI continues to service direct members in the US and over 20 other countries. The ‘Play for Life’ journal is published with over 100 A4 four colour pages in each year making it the largest international journal of play therapy practice. This is distributed free of charge to all members of PTI and its affiliates. The SEPACTO database of play therapy clinical outcomes was expanded to include cases from all PTI affiliated organisations as well as PTUK. Currently data is held on over 5000 cases, a valuable and unique research resource. This shows the efficacy of play therapy – between 70% and 82% of the children receiving play therapy from practitioners trained to PTI standards show a positive change – the worse the problems, the better the improvement.