Meet Us

We are Play Therapy Hub

The only hub in the inner-north of Melbourne dedicated to child-centered play therapy!

Hub Philosophy.

Our team share values around a holistic approach to play therapy. We believe to nurture lasting solutions using evidence-based play therapy, harmonising home life is key. Strengthening family communication to complement your child’s individual therapy journey gives little people the best foundation to flourish.

We’re here to make life easier for the whole family.

We choose child-centred play therapy.

Child-centred play therapy gently addresses and makes sense of a child’s inner world.

Child-centred play therapy is a non-direct form of play therapy. As therapists, we don’t interfere, rather follow the child’s lead. We’re here to facilitate and support expression and make children aware of their own experiences through acceptance and empathy. Once a safe place and trust is developed, the child begins to work through complex inner experiences using the natural language of play. Learning to communicate and work through feelings, behaviours and thoughts to bring about optimal growth and healing.

Meet the Team

At Play Therapy Hub our child therapists have undergone extensive supporting education, training and experience in child counselling for children aged 2 – 12 years. This specialised training in play therapy is accompanied by a unique set of skills developed in supporting mental health fields.

Each of the Play Therapy Hub team are members of either Australian Play Therapists Association or Australasia Pacific Play Therapy Association

Please, get to know our Melbourne Play Therapy team a little by reading a little bit about us in our profiles below.

To speak to one of us, you can give us a call or request an appointment to organise a chat. We’d be happy to make contact.

Helen Barrett Play Therapy for Children
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At Play Therapy Hub Melbourne:

  • Monday – Friday
    9:30 am – 5 pm

Therapies Offered:

  • Play Therapy

  • Filial Therapy

Consultation cost:

  • Initial Consult $225

  • Standard Consult $150
    (Medicare rebate $74.80)
    Standard consult fees vary for outreach and NDIS funded clients

Medicare and NDIS Registered

Helen Barrett

Helen Barrett is a clinical social worker, registered play therapist and Founder of Play Therapy Hub. She is passionate about childhood trauma recovery and building emotional resilience and attachment security in young children. Helen has a special interest in working with pre school aged children who have been adopted.

Helen’s preferred therapeutic modality with children is Child Centered Play Therapy, a method that is relationship rather than problem focused and heavily informed by trauma, attachment and child development theory framework. She also incorporates learnings from infant research and neurobiology to better understand and work with children’s emotional, psychological and behavioural problems.

Much of Helen’s work is also with the parent in promoting good enough ‘conscious’ parenting that emphasises self awareness and understanding of how their early experiences can shape how they relate and respond to their children. Parents are assisted to build more connection and healthy positive parent-child relationship that result in prevention of increased problems and resolution of specific behavioural and emotional difficulties in children.

Helen’s relational approach brings a level of integrity, knowledge and deep humility to her work with children and families as well as warmth, respect and playfulness. Helen is deeply committed and passionate about helping children feel seen, heard and understood through play therapy and supporting parents/care givers to be more sensitive and responsive to their children’s needs in order for them to feel more secure, cared for, connected and worthy.

Helen primarily operates her private practice – Helen Barrett Children’s Counselling and Play Therapy Melbourne from Play Therapy Hub.

Helen’s Qualifications

Helen Barrett is a clinical social worker, registered play therapist and Founder of Play Therapy Hub. With over 16 years experience in providing psychological and therapeutic services to children and families across a range of community settings, Helen is a highly qualified and skilled therapist with extensive knowledge and experience in child development and working with complex trauma, attachment and mental health issues.

Helen is a certified group facilitator Circle of Security and Tuning into Kids parenting programs that focus on parenting strategies and skills that nurture children’s attachment to their parents and build emotional resilience. She also incorporates the key learnings from these programs in her individual work with parents and caregivers.

  • Bachelor of Social Work
  • Dip. Holistic Living Counselling
  • Adv Dip. Childrens Holistic Counselling
  • Adv. Clinical Training in Play Therapy
  • Circle of Security Parenting Education Training
  • Trained and qualified Filial (Family) Therapist
  • APPTA – Registered Clinical Play Therapist
  • AASW – Accredited Mental Health Social Worker
  • Tuning Into Kids parenting program group facilitator
  • Circle of Security Parenting (COS – P) program group facilitator
Book Now

At Play Therapy Hub Melbourne:

  • Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
    9 am – 5 pm

Therapies Offered:

  • Play Therapy

  • Filial Therapy

  • Theraplay

Consultation cost:

  • Initial Consult $210

  • Standard Consult $140
    Standard consult fees vary for outreach and NDIS funded clients

NDIS Registered

Mardi Thorpe

Mardi uses Child Centred Play Therapy as her preferred approach to working with children. She incorporates her knowledge of attachment, child development, trauma and anxiety as a way of understanding and working with psychological, emotional and behavioural concerns.

Mardi has a passion for helping families to better understand their child’s emotional world, whilst providing practical and creative strategies for responding to challenging behaviours.

Mardi prepares parents to play an active role in their child’s treatment by establishing a safe and collaborative relationship with them. By helping them reflect on their own experiences and attitudes that may impact the way they respond to their children.

Mardi uses her kind and empathic manner to build a trusting emotional relationship with the children she works with and focusses on providing a safe space to explore thoughts, feelings and experiences. She responds to each child’s unique needs and allows them to move at their own pace.

Mardi’s Qualifications:

Mardi is both a registered Play Therapist and Art Therapist who has been providing therapeutic support to children and their families across non-for-profit organisations, educational settings and private practice over the past 10 years.

Mardi specialises in working with children that have experienced complex and relational trauma as a result of family violence, abuse or neglect. She is skilled in working with a wide range of social difficulties, emotional challenges and developmental and behavioural problems.  Issues such as externalising behaviours (acting out, anger, noncompliance), internalising behaviours (withdrawal, fearfulness, shyness, depression) and relationship and attachment problems.

Mardi strongly values the voice of the child and in all of her work advocates for a world in which they are seen, heard and understood. Mardi believes Play Therapy offers children a unique opportunity to tell their stories, to be heard and understood.

  • Masters in Arts Therapy
  • Adv. Clinical Training in Play Therapy
  • Clinical Training in Developmental Psychiatry
  • Theraplay & Marschak Interaction Method Training
  • Certificate of Education Support
  • APTA Registration Prov. Clinical
  • ANZACATA Registration Professional
  • Clinical Training in Filial Therapy.
Book Now

At Play Therapy Hub Melbourne:

  • Wednesday
    8 am – 5:30 pm

Therapies Offered:

  • Play Therapy

  • Filial Therapy

  • Animal Assisted Play Therapy

Consultation cost:

  • Initial Consult $210

  • Standard Consult $140
    Standard consult fees vary for outreach and NDIS funded clients

NDIS Registered

Donna Lai

Donna holds a Masters in Advanced Practice Social Work with over 30 years’ experience working with children, youth and families. Her work has predominately been in schools, hospitals and not-for-profits, both in Australia and abroad.

Donna has a strong passion in this field and reflects warmth and empathy when working with children and their families. She has a collaborative and reflective approach, empowering all to make positive changes in their lives, and as a result, strengthening and improving relationships. She creates an environment which allows children to feel safe to tell their story through their natural language of play, where instead of words, children “play out” their feelings and problems to make sense of their world and hence build resilience.

Donna has specialised in providing therapeutic services to children and their families who have challenging needs, with particular experience in grief/loss, complex trauma and attachment issues. She also works with children impacted by life events such as parental separation/divorce, peer/ social issues, bullying, and bereavement which can lead to a wide range of emotional, developmental and behavioural difficulties. She counsels with the goal of enabling the child to build self-worth, emotional maturity and mastery over their behaviours, which results in long term growth.

Donna works closely with parents/caregivers who are an integral part of the therapeutic process. Keeping parents informed and involved at each stage of therapy, and provides parents with support to understand their child’s feelings and motivations and how this might be expressed through behaviour. Donna has a passion for providing practical and creative strategies to families who are supporting a child or young person with social, emotional, or behavioural difficulties. Her extensive skillsets and knowledge allows her to provide families with practical strategies that are sensitive and responsive to their child’s emotional, social, behavioural or developmental needs. These strategies, when applied, lead to healthier and more positive relationships at home.

Donna’s Qualifications

Apart from play therapy, Donna systemically draws upon other therapeutic techniques, ranging from expressive therapies, cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, solution focused and trauma-informed practice.

Donna’s certifications in this area include Parent Effectiveness Training, Triple P Parenting, and Filial Therapy. At the end of 2019, Donna will also be a registered facilitator of the Circle of Security Parenting (COS – P) program, and Tuning into Kids.

Donna is always delighted to integrate Animal Assisted Therapy into her therapeutic sessions to ensure outcomes are optimised. She believes passionately in the benefits of Dog-Assisted Intervention, especially in supporting children on their emotional regulation and learning journey, and feels blessed to have three dogs trained for Animal Assisted Therapeutic work. These dogs, depending on the client, join her in therapy, and provide a calm supportive environment for change to occur.

On top of her therapeutic work, Donna provides clinical supervision to Social Workers and/or Primary Wellbeing Officers in schools, plus social work /counselling students on clinical placement in the educational field.

  • Bachelor of Social Work
  • Masters of Social Work (Advanced Practice)
  • Advanced Clinical Training in Play Therapy
  • Certified Handler of Animal Assisted Therapy
  • Certified Animal Assisted Play Therapist
  • Circle of Security Parent Education Training
  • Tuning Into Kids Facilitator Training
  • Australian Association of Social Workers Registered
  • Australian Play Therapists Association Registered
Book Now

At Play Therapy Hub Melbourne:

  • Friday 1 pm – 5 pm

  • Saturday 9 am – 1 pm

Therapies Offered:

  • Play Therapy

  • Filial Therapy

  • Learn to Play

Consultation cost:

  • Initial Consult $210.00

  • Standard Consult $140
    Standard consult fees vary for outreach and NDIS funded clients

Natalie Scira

Natalie is passionate about supporting children to achieve their full developmental potential, optimal health and wellbeing.  She believes in nurturing each child’s socio-emotional health from early in life to ensure the best possible foundation for a happy, healthy and well-adjusted adulthood.

Natalie believes child development is influenced by family and community, as well as life experiences and the way in which these have been processed and understood by the child.  Her primary focus when working with a child, is to maintain an open, playful and curious presence, whilst establishing an authentic therapeutic relationship based on safety, empathy, unconditional acceptance and trust.  Natalie is an advocate for the voice and rights of the child and the child’s own capacity for learning, socio-emotional growth and healing through play.

Natalie’s therapeutic approach is thoroughly informed by up to date knowledge and research in child and play development and mental health and she believes in a holistic approach which includes parents and carers, as well as all other significant individuals and organisations involved in the life of the child.

Natalie’s Qualifications

Natalie is a trained Filial (Family) Therapist and holds expertise in supporting families to learn therapeutic skills to enhance family and parent/child relationships and manage challenging behaviours.  She is also a trained and qualified Learn 2 Play Therapist and is skilled in helping children to establish and strengthen the building blocks of play which are necessary for mastery of more complex play skills that contribute to language development, higher-order thinking and social competency.  Natalie’s special interests include trauma, anxiety and attachment.

Natalie is also a registered Primary Teacher with close to 15 years’ experience. Her role has included supporting children’s academic and emotional wellbeing, as well as tailoring curriculum, learning and wellbeing programs to children with special needs.

Natalie owns and manages her private practice, Happy Hearts Play Therapy Melbourne.  She currently works out of Play Therapy Hub in Melbourne’s Inner North offices as well as her private consulting rooms located in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne.

  • Master of Child Play Therapy
  • Postgraduate Bachelor of Teaching with Honours
  • Bachelor of Science (Psychology)
  • Graduate Diploma in Computer Science
  • Trained and qualified Filial (Family) Therapist
  • Trained and qualified Learn 2 Play (L2P) Therapist
  • VIT – Registered Teacher (Primary)

Do you want to know a bit more?

Let’s organise a free, no obligation free chat.

Therapy that includes play can calm the storm in your child’s inner world and bring some well-deserved harmony to your home.

Get In Touch


Here’s what our happy customers had to say about their kids and our therapy services:

We began play therapy hoping that it would be an effective way of breaking the difficult cycle that I was in with my son. Our play therapist, Mardi, has a beautiful manner with our son and we have valued her insightful observations about what may be underlying his behaviours.

Danielle (Mother)
Filial Therapy Melbourne Testimonial

The combination of the play therapy and implementing her simple strategies has been very effective in changing things at home. We have found play therapy to be very beneficial for our family and are now undertaking filial therapy to continue to reap the rewards of the play therapy approach.

Karen & Rob (Parents)
Play Therapy Melbourne Testimonial

Natalie is fun, bright and bubbly. Through Play Therapy, she was easily able to connect with my child and we cannot believe how much he has transformed from being an anxious and unsure little boy, into the settled, confident and social child he is now.

Emma (Parent)

My child has a trauma background. He’s getting the Play therapy for about 9 months now. I can’t not thank Helen enough for her help and support . It’s been a very hard journey but the result is amazing. He has got great control on his emotions. He is a happy boy now 🙂

Mark & Linda (Parents)
Child Therapy Melbourne Testimonial

Donna’s play therapy & animal assisted therapy work has been instrumental in supporting & developing an understanding of the underlying issues of our disengaged refugee students. Her expertise has also been welcomed by staff who needed insight in engaging & developing strategies to meet the needs of our highly challenging students.

Ivan Araujo (Dandenong West Primary Youth Worker)

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