What’s your niche? Finding one is definitely my biggest piece of advice for new therapists.  You may have come to this page because you are considering making play therapy your niche and want to get specific training or supervision in that area.

(Bookmark it because I have tons of resources for new therapists and specialize in helping people get their play therapy feet wet).

Did you realize that within the field of play therapy, there are also specializations?

Niche 1: Become a Registered Play Therapist

I stand by my recommendation to start with play therapy and take a few courses from different providers to get acclimated to this field.   Start by reviewing the credentialing requirements from The Association for Play Therapy and even joining as a member. (Members get cool benefits like a quarterly magazine and a quarterly journal of play therapy research).

The basics of the RPT:

  • Specific graduate level coursework
  • Mental health degree
  • Licensure in your state
  • 150 Hours Play Therapy Specific Training
  • 500* Play Therapy Specific Hours/50* Hours of Supervision (*less if done by an RPT-S)

Want more information about how to get your RPT? I explained it all in full detail in this video.

The Association for Play Therapy recommends having a diverse background of training and not getting all of your hours in one particular theory or modality.

However, 150 hours is A LOT of training!

My recommendation is to get at least 1/3 of that in a specific theory or intervention.

And there is your niche within a niche.

**Just be sure to double check that the provider is an APPROVED PROVIDER with The Association for Play Therapy (if you want your hours to count towards your RPT).  Some trainings on this list may not qualify, but are still good resources to consider.

Specializations Within Play Therapy

If you google any of the following topics,  you will surely find several certificate or training programs.

The ones listed here are either ones that I have personally taken and enjoyed or that have been specifically recommended by my colleagues that work in play therapy. (No affiliate links or promotions…just sharing information)

TOP 20 (or so)



Rise Van Fleet: International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy.

This program tops the list of continuing education programs for those who are out of school.

There are several universities that have graduate coursework or certificate programs as well.  A good friend of mine completed this one at The University of Tennessee Knoxville. 


For those of you interested in using play with children under five, these two programs top my personal bucket list for training that I would like to attend.  Both are highly recommended by every play therapist that I have known and incorporate attachment theories, touch and working with parents.

First Play with  Dr. Janet Courtney

Theraplay Institute

And, as these children get older, this is recommended too:

Story Play


A lot of people who specialize in autism are on the BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) track. But did you realize, that you can use play to work with this population as well.  This niche is growing and the need for specialized service providers is very high!

Here are two highly recommended programs:
Aut Play

DIR Floor Time


Having participated in the Intensive Supervision Experience at UNT, I can only imagine how valuable this training is:

University of North Texas CCPT Certification

And, they have a  secondary certification in Child Parent Relationship Training.

This one was new to me but recommended by a colleague:

The National Institute for Relationship Enhancement Child Centered Play Therapy Certificate


Rise Van Fleet (again) for the most highly recommended training on filial therapy.  Again, working with parents and children together through play is an excellent niche market (and a valuable service for families in general).


You will find assorted trainings on Sand Tray in your communities.  These are intensive programs that will really help you carve your niche in the world of sand.

Sand Play Therapy Institute

Institute of Playful Healing

Southern Sandtray

Barbara Turner Sand Tray Training


Although I am not fully certified, I took the 6 month webinar/consultation course and can personally recommend this one.

Synergetic Play Therapy Training


No matter what work you do, you will find yourself working with clients who have experienced trauma.  Identifying yourself as a trauma-informed clinician is not only good business, but is professionally prudent.

Here are some ways to create a trauma-informed niche practice:

Karyn Purvis’ Trust Based Relational Intervention

Cathy Malchiodi’s Trauma Informed Practice Certificate Programs (also includes Art/Expressive Arts tracks)

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Want to learn more about EMDR? Watch this short cartoon that I created to explain how it works. (it’s not as scary as it sounds).

Elina Gil (need we say more?) Starbright Institute

And to become a Certified Trauma Professional, you can go to The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children.  

Niche Overload?

Now, that is a lot of training!  The hardest part of choosing a niche is often deciding WHAT to do first.  The second part is figuring out HOW to pay for it. These trainings seem expensive (meaning over a thousand dollars)


the benefits of specializations are definitely worth your investment.

Are you a provider with a play based certification program that you want to add to this list? Leave me a comment and I will add it.

If you found this information helpful, share with a colleague and be sure to subscribe to the blog for professionals for more play therapy tools, tips and tricks. And as a thank you for joining, you will get my free Play Therapy A-Z Toolkit AND the new Ultimate RPT Tracking Guide.



Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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