Using a form of recreational therapy, practitioners of play therapy help children express themselves and develop coping skills through what they do naturally: play. With each guided session, children begin to think differently and discover how to solve problems on their own. This form of therapy can benefit children of divorce and abuse, as well as those dealing with depression, anxiety, grief, neglect, phobias and attachment issues. It may also be used for people of other ages who have difficulties expressing themselves, such as the elderly or people with developmental disabilities.
In 2012, recreational therapists as a whole earned an average of $44,280 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the top 10 percent, salaries often exceeded $67,280, while those in the bottom 10 percent earned less than $26,410 annually. In an article for SpringBoard, Shannon Hodges, an associated professor of Counseling at Niagara University, provides similar figures, estimating the range at anywhere from $29,950 to $57,800, depending on the practice setting.
As with any job, earnings vary by location, and practitioners of play therapy are no exception. Those working in California earned the highest salaries, at an average of $59,630 a year. Recreational therapists in Oregon ranked second, with an average salary of $53,190, while those in New Jersey were a close third, averaging $51,550. The lowest reported wages were found in Mississippi, where the average salary was $32,780 a year.
Besides location, employers can affect salaries. Practitioners of play therapy earned the highest wages when working for the federal government, averaging $65,400 a year. Those working for home health care providers averaged $59,210, while those employed at general medical hospitals brought home $48,360. At specialty hospitals, these professionals can earn $47,510 a year. At assisted living facilities, salaries average at $36,910.
The BLS expects employment for recreational therapists to grow by as much as 17 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is slightly faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations -- an estimated 14 percent. Being a relatively small field with just over 26,300 therapists working in the U.S., the 17-percent growth works out to nearly 4,000 new jobs over the course of a decade. Those with professional certifications, which would include play therapy, should see the best prospects.