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Play Therapy Training Program

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Upcoming courses

Principles of Play Therapy

February 8 & 9, 2020
Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Registration Fee: $249
Where: CTC @ Hull Room B151, Chesterfield

Enroll now for February 8>

Games and Activities in Play Therapy

March 21 & 22, 2020
Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Registration Fee: $249
Where: CTC @ Hull Room B151, Chesterfield

Enroll now for March 21>

Group, Filial and Family Play Therapy: Systematic Intervention

May 16 & 17, 2020
Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Registration Fee: $249
Where: CTC @ Hull Room B151, Chesterfield

Enroll now for May 16>

Complete listing>

If you would like to pay for the entire certificate program at once, 
contact us for assistance at:


“It opens a whole new world. It opens a whole new direction--and that’s where the healing truly happens.”

Mia A., Clinician/Therapist--LPC Resident

Mia Anderson

The Power of Play

Explore and learn how to apply the therapeutic power of play to communicate with, and treat clients. Association for Play Therapy Approved Provider Logo

The VCU Office of Continuing and Professional Education (OCPE) is an approved continuing education provider (APT Approved Provider 15-397) by the Association for Play Therapy, Inc.

Register now

Ask about our military discount. Coupon code must be applied at the time of registration.



All VCU play therapy workshops meet the play therapy training requirements for the Registered Play Therapist (RPT), Registered Play Therapist—Supervisor (RPT-S), and School-Based Registered Play Therapist (SB-RPT) credentials. Our workshops meet all guidelines established by the Association for Play Therapy, Inc. in the areas of Play Therapy History, Play Therapy Theories, Play Therapy Techniques and Methods, and Play Therapy Applications.

Already have your RPT, RPT-S or SB-RPT credential? Check back for future advanced workshops.

See the Association for Play Therapy credentialing guides for details on the education, training, experience, and supervision required for your credential application or renewal:

NEW Play Therapy Workshops 

In order to fully align with the new Association for Play Therapy (APT) credentialing requirements, we have refreshed all of our play therapy workshops. The APT now requires that candidates for Registered Play Therapist credentials complete phased continuing education, experience, and supervision. Please see the APT Credentialing Program Announcement for more information about the new APT requirements and rationale.

You'll note that each new VCU Play Therapy workshop is now held on Saturdays and Sundays for a total of 16 contact hours over a single weekend.

We offer the following APT-approved play therapy training workshops:

  • Principles of Play Therapy (16 contact hours)
    In this foundational workshop, you will explore the history of play therapy and compare multiple models of play therapy. You will examine Child-Centered and Cognitive-Behavioral theories as they apply to play therapy. In addition, you will delve into the rationale, philosophy, and history essential to practicing in the field of play therapy. You will explore how to use play therapy with children in playrooms, how to use available space effectively in creating a therapeutic play space, and how to develop a mobile play therapy kit. You will build the foundational skills needed to use play therapy effectively and leave with the confidence to begin immediately working with clients using play-based interventions.

    Read more about Principles of Play Therapy


    This workshop is designed to help you:

    1. Describe play therapy and role of a play therapy in interventions and identify play therapists’ characteristics;
    2. Discuss the history of play therapy, its foundations, and describe and use two historically significant theories to the field of play therapy recognized by the Association for Play Therapy;
    3. Discuss the basics of, the difference between, and rationale for using non-directive and directive approaches;
    4. Explain prescriptive and integrated play therapy approaches;
    5. Describe the rationale for selecting therapeutic toys and be able to communicate how to organize and care for a professional playroom;
    6. Communicate with parents about why we use play therapy, explain how we collaborate with parents for the best outcomes, and describe how children progress in play therapy;
    7. Set and enforce limits in an effective and therapeutic way; and
    8. Identify the stages of play therapy, ethical and cultural issues, and demonstrate how to terminate play therapy appropriately.
  • Games and Activities in Play Therapy (16 contact hours)
    Using play therapy principles, you will explore the use of a directive approach in play therapy. You will develop skills to select and use therapeutic play therapy activities as well as traditional and therapeutic games. You will use games and activities to help children reflect their inner world, enhance healthy development, and strengthen coping skills. In addition, you will learn to engage children in various creative, sensory and stimulating activities that decrease stress, increase emotional regulation, and improve self-esteem. You will learn to choose activities and games that address a specific therapeutic need.

    Read more about Games and Activities in Play Therapy


    This workshop is designed to help you:

    1. Describe and apply Cognitive Behavioral Theory in a play therapy setting, which the Association for Play Therapy recognizes as historically significant to the field of play therapy;
    2. Articulate the rationale for using a directive approach in play therapy while incorporating play therapy principles;
    3. Apply Landreth’s limit setting Acknowledge, Communicate, Target (ACT) technique and demonstrate the ability to apply limit setting in the playroom;
    4. Analyze when to choose a particular directive play-based play therapy activity in accord with a client's developmental stage, clinical issue, and specific therapy goals;
    5. Discuss developmental stages and limitations that may apply in choosing a play therapy activity;
    6. Demonstrate which play therapy games and activities might be most useful to target a specific issue; and
    7. Prepare to stock and organize the playroom with recommended games and materials for play therapy activities.
  • Group, Filial and Family Play Therapy: Systematic Intervention (16 contact hours)
    In this workshop, you will develop skills to implement systematic interventions with groups and families. You will learn how filial play therapy strengthens the parent-child relationship, simultaneously improves communication between caregivers, and increases overall family functioning. You will gain confidence in working with groups using play therapy interventions and develop skills to use the power of play to help children increase insight, develop social skills, and strengthen relationships in group settings.

    Read more about Group, Filial and Family Play Therapy: Systematic Intervention


    This workshop is designed to help you:

    1. Explain and apply the filial approach and Developmental theory in a play therapy setting, which the Association for Play Therapy recognizes as historically significant to the field of play therapy;
    2. Use fundamental principles of play therapy and a child-centered approach to develop skills to engage children and parents in filial play therapy;
    3. Articulate how filial play therapy helps the parent/child relationship become stronger and improves the ability for both child and parent to communicate more effectively, enjoy being together, and relax in one another's presence;
    4. Educate parents on the benefit of strengthening family relationships by using play to meet specific goals and demonstrate skills to teach parents child-centered play therapy techniques;
    5. Demonstrate how to approach, educate, support and provide meaningful feedback to parents engaging in various modalities of family-based play therapy;
    6. Discuss how group play therapy techniques can strengthen relationships, resolve conflict, teach social and communication skills, and shift the group dynamic;
    7. Select and use specific activities and games for working with groups across populations and settings; and
    8. Use limit setting per Landreth’s Acknowledge, Communicate, Target (ACT) technique to establish boundries, work with groups, and help parents effectively set limits.
  • Play Therapy and the Expressive Arts: Using Creative Interventions with Tweens, Teens, and Other Populations (16 contact hours)
    Explore the rationale for, philosophy, history, and Gestalt theory supporting the use of expressive arts in play therapy. You will learn the basic skills needed to enter the world of expressive arts, which includes drama, music, art, storytelling, poetry, and movement. You will leave the workshop with the confidence to begin working with clients using expressive arts-based interventions. In addition, you will be able to use expressive modalities with a variety of populations and ages both in the playroom and in other settings.

    Read more about Play Therapy and the Expressive Arts: Using Creative Interventions with Tweens, Teens and Other Populations


    This workshop is designed to help you:

    1. Explain and apply Gestalt theory, an Association for Play Therapy historically significant theory to the field of play therapy, in a play therapy setting;
    2. Demonstrate how various expressive modalities (art, music, drama, poetry) are used in play therapy;
    3. Describe and demonstrate how to create a safe and protected space in which clients can freely communicate using expressive arts and play therapy;
    4. Compile materials and items useful for clients at various developmental stages for in-depth expression;
    5. Demonstrate the ability to work with clients through multimodal expressive arts to engage the senses in ways that offer experiences to strengthen the self; and
    6. Discuss archetypes, symbols, and metaphor and demonstrate how to recognize these in expressive and play therapy work.
  • Healing Childhood Trauma through Play Therapy (16 contact hours)
    In this workshop, you will learn how trauma impacts children and how play therapy allows children to use the language of play to resolve these issues and return to the necessary tasks needed for healthy development.  The historically significant approaches to trauma research and treatment are essential to understanding and practicing in the field of play therapy.  Treatment protocols have been developed based on the theoretical approaches that include Trauma Focused-Integrated Play Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Expressive Therapy for addressing trauma in children and adolescents. You will learn how to develop a safe and protected space in the playroom through play therapy techniques that include directive, non-directive, expressive and sand tray work.  The importance of offering both verbal and non-verbal approaches to working with trauma in children will be explained.  You will be able to identify the recognized phases of trauma treatment and implement interventions for different age groups and developmental levels for each of the three phases.  Ways to work with parents and guardians in conjunction with play therapy treatment will also be presented, including different family systems and cultural considerations.

    Read more about Healing Childhood Trauma through Play Therapy


    This workshop is designed to help you:

    1. Discuss the theoretical approaches that comprise the history of trauma-informed treatment in children;
    2. Develop and maintain a trauma-informed safe and protected playroom for treatment purposes;
    3. Compare the three major protocols being used for treating children with traumatic histories;
    4. Describe the three phases of treatment utilized for the treatment of trauma with children and adolescents;
    5. Explain the different treatment needs of children according to their developmental level;
    6. Practice play-based interventions utilizing directive, non-directive, expressive and sand tray work;
    7. Recognize family and cultural issues in treating trauma;
    8. Discuss parent/guardian sessions and support of parents/guardians during the treatment of children and adolescents.
  • The Hero’s Journey: Using Sand Tray and Narrative Techniques in Play Therapy (16 contact hours)
    In this workshop you will explore the history of sand tray work and compare different aspects of the early development of sand tray leading to both sand tray and sand play approaches.  We will examine the theories of Jungian psychology and Humanistic psychology that contributed to the formation of sand tray use in child therapy today.  You will also learn about narrative work and the important role it plays in sand tray work, particularly with play therapy. You will explore how to use the sand tray in the playroom in different modalities including: sensory work, directive work, non-directive work and as a medium for creating narratives with children.  Through case presentations, you will identify the different stages of sand tray work and how to utilize the tray in the playroom.  You will learn how to build the collection of miniatures needed for this work and the reasoning behind their selections as well as practice interventions for using the tray in play sessions with children and adolescents.

    Read more about The Hero’s Journey: Using Sand Tray and Narrative Techniques in Play Therapy


    This workshop is designed to help you:

    1. Describe the characteristics of sand tray therapists and the role of the sand tray in therapeutic play with children and adolescents;
    2. Discuss the history and foundations of sand tray work and identify the theoretical approaches sand tray work was built on;
    3. Identify and select the miniatures needed to conduct sand tray work with children, identify the categories used and the practical steps to setting up your sand tray within the playroom;
    4. Discuss the differences between sensory work, directive work, non-directive work and narrative work with a sand tray;
    5. Communicate with parents, the purpose and importance of play therapy and the use of sand tray within play therapy treatment;
    6. Identify and explain the different phases of sand tray work and how to recognize them within the playroom setting;
    7. Develop a narrative approach using the “Hero’s Journey” to explain the connection between themes within the sand tray and universal symbols found in Jungian psychology;
    8. Practice the basics of creating trays and “reading” trays through identifying symbolic meanings and commonly found themes in children’s sand trays.

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Workshop Facilitators

All workshop facilitators are Registered Play Therapist-Supervisors (RPT-S) with substantive relevant experience in the field.

Tracy Whitaker, LCSW, RPT-S

Tracy Whitaker is a founder of the VCU Play Therapy program and serves as the lead instructor. Previously she served as an assistant professor at VCU Health System Children’s Hospital Virginia Treatment Center for Children. She has nearly two decades of clinical experience with children, adolescents, adults, and families.

Tracy has worked in acute inpatient, outpatient and school clinics, community based programs, and in integrated health clinics. She has found a way to introduce play therapy in her work in each of these unique settings. Her work has ranged from building programs with several play rooms to temporary space with a portable play therapy kit. She is available to speak with decision-makers, medical providers and educators throughout Virginia on the curative powers of play.

Tracy holds a Master of Social Work degree from Radford University and Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology from Guilford College.

Jan Williamson, LCSW, RPT-S

Jan Williamson is the Clinical Supervisor and a mental health clinician providing trauma-informed mental health services for ChildSavers in Richmond. Previously she worked for the Child Advocacy Center and has also been an adjunct professor for the VCU School of Social Work. She has a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Social Work. First licensed as a family therapist, she has over 40 years of experience in the mental health field working with families, adults and children and also has worked internationally with refugee children and families. As a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, she is on the board of the Virginia Association for Play Therapy and also sits on the Board of the Virginia Association for Infant Mental Health. Two of Jan's areas of expertise include work with sand trays and in Animal Assisted Play Therapy.  

What to Expect

Play Therapy workshops are in a hands-on, experiential format. Workshops include some or all of the following: didactics, discussions, videos, activities/exercises, practice/demonstrations of skills, and role plays/observations.

All creative materials will be provided and are included in your registration fee.

Please bring a notebook and a pen. We recommend investing in a 1" or 2" 3-ring binder with 25-50 sheet protectors. This will be useful for organizing/storing handouts, activity instructions, and your own artwork for future examples.

Dress is casual, comfortable.

Who Should Attend

VCU play therapy workshops are for individuals who are employed and/or pursuing education in the behavioral health or school social work field. This would include licensed clinicians, school social workers, students working toward a master’s degree in social work, counseling, school social work or counseling, or psychology. We welcome resident clinicians who have graduated with a master’s degree and are in supervision toward licensure.

If you have questions about whether the workshops would be beneficial to you, please contact the VCU Office of Continuing and Professional Education at or (804) 828-1322.


We recommend that therapists take the VCU “Principles of Play Therapy” workshop first as the foundation for all the other play therapy training.  This foundation workshop is offered twice per year. After completing the “Principles of Play Therapy” workshop, you are welcome to take the other play therapy workshops in any order. Exceptions may be made if you have had previous workshops or classes that cover the principles of play therapy.


Workshops are held either at the VCU Professional Learning Classroom at the Chesterfield Technical Center (CTC at Hull), 13900 Hull Street in Midlothian, Virginia (Richmond area) or at ChildSavers, 200 N 22nd Street, Richmond, Virginia (Richmond City). There is ample free parking available at both locations.


Additional scheduling and custom training options are available for groups. Please contact Jennifer Sisane at or (804) 828-1322 for more information.

Cancellation and Refund Policies

You may cancel your registration up until the cancellation deadline listed on the registration page and receive a full refund minus a $35 credit card processing fee. After that date, no refunds will be given. Cancellations must be received via email at

In the unlikely event that this workshop is cancelled or postponed due to insufficient enrollments or unforeseen circumstances, the university will fully refund registration fees, but cannot be held responsible for any other expenses, including change or cancellation charges to include but not limited to airlines, hotels, travel agencies, or other organizations.

Transfer Policy

Workshop registrations may be transferred to a different workshop or person if requested in writing via email at by the cancellation deadline listed on the registration page.  The participant must meet all prerequisites or qualifications required by the program.

Meals, Snacks, and Beverages

You are encouraged to bring your own meals, snacks, and beverages to the workshop as they are not included in the registration fee. You are welcome to arrange and pay for group food orders with other participants.


For registration questions, please contact
For questions regarding the workshop content or eligibility, please contact Jennifer Sisane, program manager and school liaison at (804) 828-1322.

Want to find out more? Get in touch.