Over five years since its original inception, a significant exciting step in an ambitious project to introduce Play Therapy to Bangladesh has finally been taken. Way back in 2013 staff on the Play Therapy MA programme were approached by a charity called The Orphan Trust with an idea to help them realise a dream to better meet the mental health needs of the children of Bangladesh living in orphanages or on the streets. More than two years of negotiations later, the University of Roehampton approved a comprehensive scholarship package enabling a postgraduate student from Dhaka to study the Play Therapy Master’s programme here. The package, also generously supported by the Whitelands Guild, included payment of all tutorial fees for the two-year duration of the MA, personal therapy, clinical supervision, rent, living expenses and return flights. Further delays in identifying the right candidate followed, but eventually in September 2017 Mostak Ahamed Imran, an educational psychologist linked to the University of Dhaka, began his fully-funded MA training in Play Therapy. And finally, last week Imran travelled back to Dhaka with Lisa Gordon Clark, Programme Convener for the Play Therapy MA, to co-deliver the inaugural Foundation Course in Therapeutic Play. Based on the syllabus of the Play Therapy Foundation Course Lisa has been running at Roehampton for the last 10 years, the intense 7-day training was tailored to be more culturally relevant and was delivered in both English and Bengali.

The pilot course was most enthusiastically received by the first cohort of 20 participants, the majority of whom were already working therapeutically with children in various professional roles, but to whom the concept of using play to do so was novel.  They embraced the experiential training with eager playfulness and deep interest and by the end of the week both Lisa and Imran were boosted by hugely affirming feedback from each and every one. Together with senior staff in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at the University of Dhaka there is now a strong commitment to continue with the momentum.

Once Imran completes his MA at Roehampton this Summer he will return to Dhaka and take the helm of a series of subsequent Foundation level programmes, with reducing support of the University of Roehampton. There is a real hope that over time the Play Therapy training offered in Bangladesh could progress to Post-Graduate Diploma Level, and maybe even to a Master’s programme. It is envisaged that staff from the University of Roehampton would be involved to some extent in the co-creation of the syllabus for this qualification, in conjunction with Imran and with University staff in Dhaka.  Former Foundation Course students would probably form the first Diploma cohort and the primary tier of the structural hierarchy the profession needs to sustain, develop and flourish. In a few exciting years’ time there could be a whole burgeoning community of fully-qualified and skilled Play Therapists available to work with and support those needy children of Dhaka and beyond.  The dream is becoming a reality.

Lisa Gordon Clark, Programme Convener: Play Therapy MA