Course Details

This blended learning course in Therapeutic Play Skills will provide you with the knowledge, skill and competence to use play as a therapeutic medium in a range of early years and special needs settings.

Start Date
15th July 2023
QQI Level 6
Portobello Institute
Course Duration
3 months


Are you interested in how play can be used as a therapeutic medium for children to help children work through difficult and challenging circumstances? This 3-month QQI level 6 award is to equip you with the knowledge, skill and competence to use play as a therapeutic medium in a range of early years and special needs settings to facilitate young people, focusing on children’s specific needs in relation to holistic development. The course is delivered online through blended learning meaning you can fit your study around your busy working and home life. Practical workshops are delivered by online webinars and designed to give you practical insight into Therapeutic Play Skills from an experienced practitioner. You will also be assigned a tutor who will give you one-to-one support and guide you through your learning journey.

Why should I study this course?

Research has found play to be an effective therapeutic medium for children in difficult and challenging circumstances such as family changes, separation and divorce, new schools, chronic illness and even death and dying. It is a natural means for children to work out difficulties they might face such as making friends and dealing with excessive anger, fear, sadness, worry and shyness. Play also helps in dealing with issues emerging from aggression and acting out; school difficulties; abuse and neglect; social adjustment; sleeping and eating difficulties; poor self-concept and low self-esteem; trauma; grief & loss; hospitalisation; and identity.

Portobello Institute’s QQI Level 6 Minor Award in Therapeutic Play Skills gives you the opportunity to learn from a range of experts all of whom are passionate about the therapeutic role of play. They bring their insight, depth of experience and passion for teaching to this course.

"Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child's soul"

- Fredrich Frobel

Who will recognise my qualification?

Upon completing this course, you will hold a QQI Level 6 Minor Award in Therapeutic Play Skills. This is awarded at level 6 on the Qualifications Framework.

Qualifications Frameworks in Ireland and the UK

The Irish and UK qualifications authorities have collaborated on initiatives that promote the transparency, recognition and mobility of qualifications between our respective jurisdictions. The qualifications authorities in the UK and Ireland have agreed the qualifications frameworks in operation, Brexit will not impact this agreement. Further guidance on this framework is available here.

What will I study during this Therapeutic Play Skills – July ’23 course?

During this course, you will learn extensively about the role of therapeutic play as a medium to help children work through difficult circumstances they may be enduring. You will learn about the different therapeutic play theories and principles and their relevance in different situations. You will also learn the key practical skills needed to facilitate therapeutic play with children.

At the end of this course, you will be able to;

  • Evaluate the key concepts, principles and practice in utilising play as a therapeutic medium in a variety of child settings.
  • Appraise therapeutic play theories and their relevance in different settings.
  • Demonstrate understanding and awareness of interpersonal communication including one to one and group dynamics.
  • Explore the limits in terms of helping children develop self-control and decision-making and also in terms of personal security and ethical relationship.
  • Examine the needs of specific individuals such as children who are bereaved, behavioural issues or those experiencing long term illness or medical care in a hospital setting.
  • Identify your own personal skills and competencies in terms of practice.
  • Contribute as an effective member of a team in an early years, education or healthcare setting by adhering to supervisory or management structures and maintaining appropriate documentation.
  • Design and implement a range of practical play techniques to include the creative expressive therapies of art, drama, music and dance activities.
  • Manage the planning and preparation of group work to include the facilitation of a range of techniques for children and adolescents.
  • Facilitate individual needs by ensuring equal opportunities and best practices to enable children to reach their full potential.
  • Demonstrate the academic and vocational language, literacy and numeracy skills relevant to therapeutic play skills.
  • Exercise substantial personal autonomy and responsibility.

Who will I learn from?

Programme Manager

Iryna Fox

About Iryna Fox

I started my career in education at the age of 16 and was teaching English to preschool and school-aged children in Kyiv, Ukraine.

To develop my interest in languages and teaching, I completed a BA and then MA in Teaching English and German, followed by a PhD in Linguistics at Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv.

Between 2000 and 2005, I worked at the English Language Department of the university and was responsible for teaching English to future English teachers and interpreters and supervising student research projects.

Having married an Irishman, I moved to Ireland in 2005 and as I started having my own children, I developed an interest in early childhood education.

I completed training in Montessori education and started my career as a Montessori Teacher. Around that time Síolta and Aistear frameworks were introduced and I realised that I wanted to enlarge my knowledge about the variety of methods and approaches used to educate children.

This led me to a BA Hons in Early Childhood Studies with Portobello Institute/London Metropolitan University and after completion of this programme with First Class Honours I taught on Portobello Level 5 and 6 Early Childhood Care and Education programmes while still continuing to work directly with children and families in Early Years settings.

In 2018, I joined the Portobello team in a full-time capacity as the Programme Manager for the degree programmes and my role is focused on providing positive learning experiences for the students through leading the team of tutors and working with other Portobello departments as well as communicating with the teaching team at LMU.

I am eager to learn more about third-level education and working with adult learners. I am currently completing a MA in Education, Learning and Development programme.

Why Did You Choose to Work in Education?

I believe that the learner-centred approach is as important in third level as it is in early childhood education.

The student’s well-being is very important and it is only when the student feels they are welcome and accepted as unique individuals, learning can take place.

I work to create this welcoming atmosphere and make sure that students have no barriers in approaching the team, that they receive the necessary information timely, know where to get help and can get help.

Education is not just about content knowledge, it is about making relationships, meeting inspiring people, and learning from others – and this is what we offer the students in our department and in our Institute.

Your Experience as a Programme Manager

I am really proud of the programmes we offer. A lot of the assignments are practice-based and both, those students who are new to the industry, and experienced practitioners, have a lot of opportunities to reflect on their work with children and families and learn to align it with best practices and research evidence.

Our teaching team is very strong and they strive to help the students along this journey – we employ tutors who not only have academic knowledge but also have industry experience so they can relate in the theory to practice in a real way. My role is to develop and support the teaching team and ensure that we are meeting our students’ needs.

The students in our department come from a variety of backgrounds. Many of them have been out of formal education for a long time, many are experiencing third-level education for the first time.

Some have a fear of using technology and online systems, some have learning difficulties. We understand that each student’s needs and situations are unique. We do our best to support them and we are thrilled to celebrate their success on graduation day – their success is our success!

Why Portobello?

Ever since I started tutoring with Portobello, I’ve been inspired by the learner profile of those who study at the college.

The majority of Early Childhood Studies students are practitioners who have to juggle the pressures of work, study and family life. These are people who want to better themselves despite any difficulties that might come their way.

This is what motivates me to do my work on a daily basis. And as a mum of three children, who also combines work and study, I feel I am in the right place to be able to understand our students.

In addition, I think we have an excellent team working for the college.  I am surrounded by like-minded and hard-working people, some of whom have become really good friends.

I am blown away by how creative and innovative our senior management is in advancing the college work and how supportive they are of the team.

Because our team is compact and closely knit, I believe we can communicate a lot better and meet the student’s needs more effectively and efficiently than many other institutions.

We are currently putting emphasis on improving our student feedback system and this will be instrumental in further promoting quality in our department.


  • MA Teaching English and German
  • PhD Linguistics
  • BA Hons Early Childhood Studies
  • PGr Cert Training and Education

Research/Industry Participation

  • Early Childhood Ireland Research and Practice Seminar

Personal Academic Tutor

Each student is assigned a personal academic tutor to support you throughout your learning journey. They are available to offer you telephone and email support at any time. You can arrange to meet them for further one to one guidance at a time convenient to you.

Many of our past graduates have found it is the opportunity to ask a simple question, seek direction and submit a draft of their assessment that supported them most to successful completion. Emailing your tutor at any stage during your programme to ask a query or submit a draft of your assessment supports you to achieve your personal best throughout your studies with Portobello.

This level of one to one support is a particular benefit to choosing Portobello as your Institute of choice to complete your studies.

Clare Bowman

Position: SNA and ECCE Tutor

“Early Childhood Education is the key to the betterment of our society.” – Maria Montessori

I am passionate about all aspects of Early Childhood Education. I have been fortunate to meet some equally passionate students along the way. The Early Childhood sector has improved so much over the last 20 years and continues to improve through the education and devotion of its committed workforce.

About Clare

I have a background in Early Years Education, specialising in Early Intervention. I currently teach under 6’s with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Global Developmental Delays. I have been working in Adult Education for over 16 years.

Clare’s Teaching Philosophy

My classes are fun, informative, and interactive. I like students to feel like they go away from class confident that they can complete the assignments required for each module.


  • BA (Hons) Training and Education
  • HNC Childcare and Education
  • University Certificate in ASD
  • Montessori Certificate in Special Education

Research/Industry Participation

  • Member of the Teaching Council of Ireland
  • Member of Autplay Therapists

What modules do you teach and what value do you feel this brings to the students?

Module: Special Needs Assisting

Value: Prepares the student for working with children with additional needs. Provides them with a knowledge of special educational needs, the role of the SNA and Irish legislation.

Module: Child Development

Value: Equips the student with an understanding of holistic development, an overview of the work of important theorists and the knowledge to carry out a variety of observations in the workplace.

Module: Child Psychology

Value: Provides the learner with theoretical knowledge of psychology relevant to childhood, as well as helping students to develop new ideas and improve their own interaction with the children they work with.

Success Story

I did the course as a taster and I just found it amazing. Everything that Aoife [Kelly, Tutor] did on the course was so relevant. This course is a stepping board and a confidence booster.

Irene Harpur

Therapeutic Play Skills – July ’23 Therapeutic Play Skills – July ’23
Success Story

The children I work with have Autism Spectrum Disorder and since I finished the course I have been using the skills I learned for sessions with the children, it really has brought a lot to the class.

Claire McEntee

Therapeutic Play Skills – July ’23 Therapeutic Play Skills – July ’23

How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

This QQI Level 6 award has been specifically designed for delivery by blended learning. It is very suited to you if you want to study from home whilst gaining this qualification. During the induction, you will be given your log-in details to the online portal,  “ePortobello”. Here you will find course notes, reading lists, articles of interest and assessment guidelines. The content is structured in an easy to “find and follow” format. You will need basic computer skills such as searching the internet and typing a word document.

There is one to one expert tutor support available to you throughout your learning journey. You can upload your assessments and your tutor will give you feedback on whether you are on the right track. Blended learning allows you to study at your time with support available when you need it. The practical workshops are delivered by online webinars and designed to give you practical insight into Therapeutic Play Skills from an experienced practitioner. There are two webinars which take place on Saturdays and they are mandatory to attend. You must attend the first webinar to be able to attend and understand the second. Webinars are not recorded or available to watch back for the privacy of those taking part.

Other delivery modes available

Online with webinars

Therapeutic Play Skills – September ’23

Portobello Institute
Start Date
16th September 2023

Course Structure

Portobello Institute’s Therapeutic Play Skills is a blended learning course, a mix between online learning and webinars. The content is all available on ePortobello and is in an easy to follow “week by week” format.

You can commence this course immediately with the online content and attend the scheduled webinars as and when they arise. You must attend the first webinar before attending the second webinar. If for any reason you are unable to attend the scheduled webinar, you can attend the same webinar on another date. Please contact your assigned programme support manager for details of alternative dates.

What is a Webinar?

A webinar, in the context of online learning, is a lecturer delivering a presentation or class online to a group of students. We use specifically designed e-learning software so you can participate in the class just as if you were present in the same room. You can ask a question of the lecturer at any stage during the class. The software is designed with “break-out rooms” where you can discuss a topic or complete a group exercise with a smaller group from your class. You will need a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone that has an internet connection, an audio facility so you can hear and speak during the class and a camera so your lecturer and fellow class participants can see you. The webinar is a secure online environment and only those permitted entry by the lecturer can gain access to the “classroom”.

Outlined below is the content covered during each webinar.

Webinar 1: Introduction to Therapeutic Play Skills

  • Introduce the course aims, and objectives and discuss the assignments.
  • Introduce the history of play therapy PowerPoint presentation with general discussions around this.
  • Lecture of play and explore the difference between “play” and “therapeutic play”.
  • The concept of the therapeutic relationship introduced.
  • Introduction to Bowlby and attachment types, then Erik Erikson’s stages of man.
  • Webinar 1 wraps up by explaining the mediums we will discuss in webinar 2.
  • Question and answer session.

Virtual breakout rooms are used for group discussions throughout the day.

Webinar 2: More insight into the practical elements of Therapeutic Play Skills
  • Introduction to sand play and experiential exercises.
  • Introduction to art therapy and experiential exercises.
  • Introduction to clay/playdough and experiential exercises.
  • Introduction to therapeutic stories and discussion/ideas about stories.
  • Introduction to puppets and discussion.
  • Catch up on Eric Erikson’s stages of man theory and Bowlby’s attachment theory.
  • Time allocated to support students with queries about content and assignments.

Virtual breakout rooms are used for group discussions throughout the day.

Webinar Schedule

This course has 2 webinars held on Saturday, 15th July ’23, and 26th August ’23 from 10 am to 4 pm.

The webinars are highly interactive with intermittent breaks scheduled throughout the day.

How will I be assessed?

A variety of assessment methods are used to support students with different learning styles. These vary from written reports to practical case studies to examinations. We encourage you to reflect on your knowledge gained with a number of assignments designed to explore your learning journey. All of these assessment methods are seeking to support you to combine theory with scenario-based learning and how to practically implement these methods into your everyday practice.

Career prospects

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Speak to an expert

Choosing a course that will lead you to your career of choice is a significant decision. Understanding the delivery modes, supports available, career opportunities and further study options are all key considerations when making your choice. Our course adviser team are experts in the courses Portobello offers, the employment prospects and possible progression routes to Masters programmes – they will guide you through the detail and support you with any queries you may have.

It is important you make the right choice for you and choose the Institute and course that will best suit your needs.

Your Consultant

Jennifer Matteazzi

About Jenny

My name is Jennifer Matteazzi and I am the Enrolment Team Leader.  An investment in knowledge pays the best interest and I am part of the team who helps learners achieve their education goals.


How long are you working in Portobello?

I have been working for Portobello Institute for over 5 years now.

What do you enjoy about working in Portobello?

I love the interaction with students.  Every day I get to meet different individuals and learners who are looking to change their lives and I get to be the person who advises them on the best programme to take. It is a fantastic feeling to be part of their journey.  For many learners this is a huge decision and I get to be the person who supports them in making that decision.  There is an incredible sense of pride when I see our learners graduate and achieve their education goals.

What inspires you about working in education?

I believe that education is impowering and it can often change people’s lives.  It increases the learner’s confidence and it allows the learner to reach their full potential. Coming back to education hugely lifts the learner’s self esteem.

Have you a story that you recall that touched you/made you laugh/made you cry?

One particular lady struggled with dyslexia all her life.  Her disability really affected her years in school, her career choices and when this learner approached Portobello Institute I worked with her to establish the best way forward, the right course for her was without a doubt in childcare.  This lady registered on the course and she needed a lot of hand holding throughout her studies from both myself and the academic team.  I recall that the day of her graduation, she received the “Student of Year” award.  We were all thrilled and delighted for her!  This learner has since gone on to open a very successful Montessori setting.

How do you feel when you have helped a student reach a decision on their course choice?

I am there to be the deciding factor for our learners.  We support people in making the right choice of programme for them.  We reassure them the whole way and we support them throughout.  It is a very rewarding feeling to be part of this process.

Book a consultation

How do I apply?

Entry to this course is by direct application to the college.


Without a Leaving Certificate

There are no previous academic or experience requirements.

Application Process

Step 1

Complete the online booking form.

Apply Now

Step 2

Applicants will be contacted for confirmation of personal details.

Step 3

Confirmation of a place will be given to applicants following successful application.

Fees & Payment Options


Course Price

Per academic year.


Full Payment

Total amount payable.