Before standardized training in play therapy began in 1992, licensed children's counselors had inconsistent results in getting children to comprehend and express feelings and emotions. Play therapy is a form of children's recreational therapy that helps solve and enhance psychological ailments by using interactive games and activities that are based on theoretical models, according to the Association for Play Therapy. These types of activities help children build positive relationships and teach them how to manage anger and exhibit self-control.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer any information specific to the title "play therapist." However, this position can be classified with "Recreational Therapists" in the BLS 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook. According to the document, broad statistics show that the median annual salary for recreational therapists in May of 2008 was $38,370. The lowest earning 10 percent made less than $23,150 per year, and the highest 10 percent took home $60,280. The middle 50 percent of position holders earned anywhere from $29,660 to $49,140 annually.
Play Therapists vs Paraprofessionals
The Simply Hired career and salary website offers more detailed information regarding wages of play therapists in particular, as well as paraprofessional statistics. Paraprofessionals are essentially teacher's aides, and many have concentrations in play therapy. In many instances, no degree is required to become a paraprofessional, providing you successfully complete an assessment, whereas play therapy positions require at least an associates degree. As of 2011, Simply Hired estimates that nationally, the average salary for therapists is in the neighborhood of $51,000 per year and $37,000 for paraprofessionals in the field.
Where you live and work may have a great deal to do with how much you can expect to earn as a play therapist. The Salary Expert website offers frequently updated information about regional variances in salary for such positions. According to Salary Expert, play therapists in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Atlanta and Orlando, Florida all make between $26,221 and $28,331 annually. Cities paying more than $30,000 for the same position include Miami, Charlotte, North Carolina, New York, Manhattan, New York and Chicago earning between $30,551 and $34,245 and Los Angeles, where play therapists earn an average of $40,400 per year.
As a recreational or play therapist, you can expect to receive a decent benefits package in addition to your annual salary. According to PayScale.com, in 2011 roughly 82 percent of recreational therapists were provided medical insurance by their employers, 62 percent were offered dental coverage, and about half of them took advantage of vision plans. Only a small 17 percent did not receive a benefits package.
2016 Salary Information for Recreational Therapists
Recreational therapists earned a median annual salary of $46,410 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, recreational therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,570, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $59,680, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,200 people were employed in the U.S. as recreational therapists.