Play Therapy Certificate

At a Glance

1-2 Years Program length
7 Semester credit hours

Tuition Cost for Entire Program*



In-person at the Portland Center or online synchronous, though most courses must be completed in person

* All stated financial information is subject to change.

The Northwest Center for Play Therapy Studies’ Certificate in Play Therapy is designed to provide experientially based graduate-level education in play therapy, both for enrolled graduate students and mental health professionals in the community. Seven hours of specific graduate play therapy courses are required for completion of the certificate.

About the NWCPTS  

child plays in sand

The Northwest Center for Play Therapy Studies was founded in 2003 by its director, Daniel Sweeney, PhD, and is the oldest and largest university-based center focused on the study and promotion of play therapy in the northwest United States. The NWCPTS is an Association for Play Therapy (APT) Approved Center.

Earn Your Play Therapy Credential

Upon completion of the certificate, you will meet most, if not all, of the play therapy instruction requirements of the Association for Play Therapy (APT) to receive the Registered Play Therapist (RPT) credential with the APT. There are specific educational and supervised requirements for this credential, which may change regularly. While you are a student in the play therapy certificate program, we will stay informed of all potential certificate updates as required by APT, and offer coursework in response.

Read more about APT credentialing standards

Courses and Credit

Play therapy certificate courses must be taken for credit and not audited. In terms of meeting the instructional requirement for the RPT credential, play therapy courses taken for credit are granted increased play therapy instruction time.

Each graduate course semester credit equals 22.5 hours of play therapy instruction. The seven required credit hours for the Certificate in Play Therapy amount to 157.5 APT play therapy instruction hours.

Per the Association for Play Therapy, RPT applicants are required to complete 150 hours of play therapy-specific instruction in five primary areas during the simultaneous or sequential completion of both play therapy experience and supervision.

Certificate in Play Therapy Requirements

Complete the following:

This course will cover an introduction to the theory and practice of play therapy as a primary therapeutic approach when working with children in individual and family psychotherapy. The course is designed to prepare the student to effectively provide developmentally appropriate counseling for children, focusing on the development of a therapist-child relationship and utilization of play media in the systemic counseling process as a means to facilitate expression, self-understanding, and personal growth and development. Students will become familiar with play therapy theory techniques, therapeutic stages, ethical issues, and application. Observation of and experience in play therapy are an integral part of the course. This course is intended for CMHC and MCFC students only. Pre/Corequisite: GCEP 500, GCEP 540.
This course covers an introduction to the theory and practice of filial therapy [specifically, the CPRT (Child-Parent Relationship Therapy) model], a play therapy-based parent training program. Filial therapy has been shown to be an empirically effective child and family therapy intervention. Parents are trained by experienced play therapists to be agents of therapeutic change in their children’s lives through the utilization of basic play therapy skills. These skills are employed in regularly scheduled parent-child structured play sessions in their own homes. How to train parents in the overall principles and methodology of child-centered play therapy is addressed. Prerequisite: GCEP 580 (Play Therapy) or approval from instructor.
This course will cover an introduction to the theory and practice of sandtray therapy as psychotherapeutic approach and modality of play therapy when working with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and groups. Development of a therapist-client relationship and utilization of sandtray media in the counseling process is emphasized as a means to facilitate expression, self-understanding, and personal growth & development — for both the client and the counselor. Didactic and experiential methods are used. Prerequisite: GCEP 501 or equivalent
Special topic in the field of play therapy. Examples include: Family Play Therapy, Group Play Therapy, Neurobiology of Trauma and Play Therapy, Advanced Play Therapy Theory, etc. Prerequisite: GCEP 501 or equivalent

Note: For students completing the play therapy certificate, all certificate courses other than GCEP 580 can triple-count toward degree elective requirements, the play therapy certificate, and the Trauma Response Institute’s post-graduate certificate (Block B electives).


George Fox Students

Graduate students in George Fox’s Graduate School of Counseling (GSC) are automatically eligible for enrollment in the play therapy certificate program, as long as prerequisite coursework has been completed.

Since both clinical mental health counseling and marriage, family and counseling students are already required to complete the three-credit GCEP 580 Play Therapy: Lifespan Applications course, they are nearly halfway through the required courses for the Certificate in Play Therapy. Graduate students from the school counseling program are also welcome to join the certificate program.

George Fox graduate students in other mental health programs (PsyD and MSW) are also eligible to enroll in play therapy certificate courses, as long as prerequisites have been met.

Non-George Fox Students

Non-GSC students are welcome to apply and participate in the certificate program, as long as they are current or post-degree mental health students or graduates. Simply complete a Special Student Application to apply for entrance into the play therapy certificate program.

child and therapy student


Once accepted into the play therapy certificate program, you will meet with an academic advisor to identify your desired timeline for completion within the allotted time frame.

The foundational course, GCEP 580: Play Therapy: Lifespan Applications, can be taken in an in-person synchronous format or a digital synchronous format. Currently, the majority of the certificate program is only available in an in-person synchronous format.

Certificate students have four years to complete the certificate courses and are automatically unenrolled as certificate-seeking students if they do not take at least one play therapy course per year. Also, students may take as many play therapy courses as they wish without applying to earn the certificate.

Our Mission

The mission of the NW Center for Play Therapy Studies is to promote the healthy development and welfare of children and families through the process of play and filial therapy.

In support of the relational, psychological and spiritual wholeness of children and families, the center seeks to fulfill this objective through the provision of play therapy, training, supervision, and learning resources for students and mental health professionals in the community.


Kelly Peterson

Kelly Peterson

Admissions Counselor, Graduate Counseling Programs