play therapy in preschoolsProviding play therapy in preschools and behavioral observations is how I started my own career as a play therapist and there are a lot of reasons you may want to consider developing a strategy for offering this service for your own career.

In my training on this topic I cover all the ins and outs of play therapy in preschool settings for two hours of APT and NBCC approved training that includes 6 sample forms you will need. In this article today, I want to hit some of those highlights since so many people have showed enthusiasm about this concept.

In my recent article that provided creative ways to earn income in play therapy I emphasized play therapy in preschools as an option when your afternoons after school are too full and you are wanting  to fill in your morning hours. In this article, I want to show you how this concept is perfect when you are first starting out  in private practice.

When you are first starting out in private practice you might be patiently waiting to be credentialed and accepted onto insurance panels and you need to find way to practice your play therapy skills and earn some money to meet your overhead expenses. Or maybe you have decided to have a cash based practice and you’re in the beginning process of marketing your services. Taking play therapy into the preschool setting is a great mechanism for establishing yourself as an early childhood specialist and growing your client base.

There are pros and cons to providing play therapy in preschools.

The Pros:

  • Opportunity to establish yourself as a specialist in working with children
  • You will easily gain referrals for private services outside of the school setting
  • Access to children during the school hours
  • Ability to observe children in their school and social environment
  • Flexibility in scheduling
  • More regular contact with child clients
  • Access to more systemic information

The Cons:

  • Space and location for play therapy sessions may not be ideal
  • Less structure in terms of scheduling and shorter time with children individually
  • Not as much direct contact with parents
  • Funding your services is often not available in a preschool’s budget so selling them the idea can sometimes be tricky

In my 2 hour APT and NBCC approved play therapy training called Play Therapy in Preschools you will find all the specific guidance on what you will need to do to successfully bring your services into child development centers and preschool settings, teaching you how to do behavioral observations two ways. You can go to this link to purchase that training if you are interested in doing so.

Benefits of providing behavioral observations as a play-based service:

  • Preschool directors need professional perspective and guidance when children have “disruptive behavior”
  • This is an opportunity for you to help parents, teachers and directors understand the reasons for all behavior.
  • This service establishes yourself further as an early childhood specialist
  • After you ascertain what this child is experiencing and expressing it often follows play therapy services can be recommended

Things you must consider and be prepared for when offering play therapy in preschools:

  • Who is the client? You’ll need to have a contract with the preschool that spells out what services you are providing for the preschool and when you would need to obtain informed consent from the parents. (I provide sample forms in my training).
  • How will you be paid? You can either negotiate an hourly rate for services as needed or you can agree on a salary amount with set hours to be on site as the preschool staff counselor. Another way you may be paid is for the school to bill the parents a fee for the program you put into place – sometimes optional and sometimes required. Sometimes you may simply be paid by the parents to go to the child’s preschool and provide play therapy services and observation on site because they can’t bring their child to your office.
  • Play therapy supplies. You will want to pack a suitcase or large duffle with your mobile play therapy kit. (need ideas for this? check out this training called What’s in a Play Room? where I go over not only traditional play room set up but mobile play room prep as well).
  • Where will you provide your  1:1 play therapy services? As mentioned previously, you have to be flexible. When I worked in preschool settings, sometimes I was able to utilize an empty classroom when the rest of the class was at recess. Often I had to set up in a corner of a hallway. Other times I was able to utilize and administrative office or a conference room. Sometimes you may have to work with a child in the classroom with the other children nearby. Confidentiality is limited and this needs to be addressed in the informed consent you provide parents to sign if working with a child privately.

If you really want to develop your career to offer play therapy in preschools consider becoming a Certified S.E.A.L. Social Emotional Awareness Literacy Program for Preschools Provider! We start August 1!