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
16th September 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 – September ’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

Olivia Hamill

“Working as a PM for EY & SNA means working in an ever-changing industry, as investment in the childcare industry in Ireland has been to the forefront in recent years.  This investment is not unlike the investment made by students- as they invest in their future through their educational journey. Being involved in their journey is fulfilling as you watch them flourish over time and support them in achieving their goals”


While my initial third level education was in Business Management my career path took a turn when I became involved in fostering. The more research (for homelife benefits) I conducted in the areas of children with additional needs, child development, play activities etc., I realised that this was an area I had a keen interest in. From here I went onto firstly study a Level 5 in ECCE, to have the basis for further study within the area. Then I completed a H-DIP in ECEC which led me onto a Level 9 MA in Child, Youth and Family studies.  I studied part time while working full time, and this has helped me immensely in understanding students journey on similar paths- it can be a  struggle trying to balance working, reaching assignment deadlines, attending classes, along with daily home (and social!) life, but once you achieve your end goal it is worth it. Having also worked in various rooms in childcare settings, this added to my experience, skills, knowledge, and abilities. Working in the sector assisted me greatly (before I took up the role as Programme Manager) while I was tutoring with Portobello as I was able to impart knowledge and experience to students.

Why did you choose to work in education?

Having gone back to study myself many years after my initial education, my own experience contributes to understanding individual students needs and abilities. Everybody learns differently and it is beneficial in the educational industry to have an understanding that some people may be visual learners, while others may be kinaesthetic or auditory learners while some may learn through reading and writing. Match this understanding with various modes of course delivery, tutors who are passionate about their subject areas, are inclusive to all types of learners and this can only lead to a successful outcome for students.

Collaborating with and listening to students is also an important aspect within the education industry, we all have knowledge to offer and learn from each other, having had this experience myself while studying, this was always something I encouraged while tutoring. Facilitating students to share knowledge and experience while motivating and supporting them through their learning journey is all part of the role as an educator. These roles also become part of your role as a PM, you want to see everyone achieving their goal and you are there to help, guide, advise, support, motivate and encourage them throughout their time spent with the college.

Your experience as a Programme Manager.

Before a student embarks on their learning journey, Portobello takes the time to explore which mode of delivery suits an individual’s needs, abilities, and time available to study. While working as a PM with Portobello I have come across many inspirational students, some who have not studied in many years, some who have had learning difficulties, others may be changing industry entirely, while some just simply want more knowledge as a parent to help them in understanding their children’s needs. As a PM contributing to all student’s journey through listening, supporting, motivating, and encouraging them throughout their education is an important aspect and it is inspirational to see students achieving their goal.

Why Portobello?

Working with Portobello allows you to get to know students, which allows students to feel valued and everyone in the Institute is committed to supporting students on their learning journey. Portobello offers flexibility in course delivery, this is something which can be a deciding factor on choosing a course, students consider what fits their lifestyle and free time available to study. By offering blended, part time, full time, online or distance courses, this gives Portobello the ability to offer courses to suit a range of students needs.


  • MA in Child, Youth & Family Studies
  • H-Dip in Early Childhood Education & Care
  • QQI Level 5 in Early Childhood Care & Education
  • BBS Honours Degree in Business Management





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.

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 – September ’23 Therapeutic Play Skills – September ’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 – September ’23 Therapeutic Play Skills – September ’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.

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, 16th September ’23, and 21st October ’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.