Mental Health Professionals Attend Appalachian Center for Play Therapy Conference
Posted on Monday, June 08, 2009 [8:47 AM]
|Play therapy pioneer Garry L. Landreth
addresses mental-health professionals June 4 at the Appalachian
Center for Play Therapy conference, held at the Center for Rural
SOMERSET, Ky. -
Tasha Miller of Pikeville, Ky., didn't know a lot about play
therapy at the start of this week.
But by the end of Thursday, June 4, the Lindsey Wilson College
human services and counseling senior thought she might want to
incorporate play therapy into her career as a mental health
"It's something that I'm going to consider using because I want
to work with children after I graduate," she said.
Miller was one of more than 160 people from seven states who
attended the first sponsored conference of the Lindsey Wilson
Appalachian Center for Play Therapy. The two-day conference, which
was held at the Center for Rural Development, featured Garry L.
Landreth, an internationally known play therapy expert, who
discussed play therapy and its benefits.
"Play therapy gives a voice to children by using their play,"
said Landreth, who is the the founder of the Center for Play Therapy
at the University of North Texas, the largest play therapy
training program in the nation. "The play therapist 'listens' to
the meaning in the child's play, just as the therapist listens to
meaning of an adult's verbalization. So while they are in a
playroom setting, their toys are viewed as being like a child's
words and play is the child's language."
'Child's Play Language'
The task of the play therapist is to understand the "child's play
language," Landreth said.
"And that's not as difficult to read the play language as you
might initially think because play is a universal language,"
Landreth said. "Children all over the world play similarly, just
the items they play with differ. ... Give a child in South Africa a
pile of sand and they play in it the same children in Kentucky play
in the sand."
Play therapy as a discipline was first discussed in the 1940s,
but Landreth is responsible for popularizing it over the last 40
Lindsey Wilson Associate Professor of Human Services &
Counseling Jodi M. Crane.
Landreth has published more than 150 journal articles, books and
videos. His award-winning book Play Therapy: The Art of the
Relationship has been translated into several languages.
Landreth's articles, books and videos are among the reasons play
therapy has become one of the fastest-growing areas in the
mental-health profession, Crane said.
"The mental-health profession is finally recognizing that it's
not effective to sit children down in big chairs and tell them what
they need to do or give them instructions about how to live their
lives - it doesn't work," Landreth said. "We need to give them a
chance to communicate at their level, the same way we give adults
an opportunity to communicate verbally. That recognition is slowly
Despite efforts to promote play therapy, Landreth said the
subject is taught as a separate class in just about 30 percent of
the U.S. counselor-education programs.
'Struggling with Lack of
"We are still struggling with the lack of recognition of the
child's ability in their own way to solve emotional issues," he
Central to play therapy is for the therapist to see the child as
a person, not as a junior version of an adult.
"Children are people, they just happen to be younger people,"
Landreth said. "They are persons worthy of respect, as any person
is worthy of respect. They just happen to be 3, 4 or 5 years old.
They possess the same capability of helping themselves emotionally
that adults possess. In fact, sometimes it's harder for adults to
help themselves because their minds get in the way - they keep
thinking about all the things that didn't work.
"I love the child's approach and view of their world - they
approach their world with newness. It's new, eager, creative and
willing to explore."
Appalachian Center for Play
In addition to exposing more than 160 mental-health students and
professionals to play therapy, this week's conference was also
something of a coming out part for the Appalachian Center for Play
Therapy. Founded early this year by Crane, a nine-year veteran of
the LWC faculty, the center's goal is to help educate and train
mental-health professionals and others who work with children about
the benefits of play therapy.
"The center makes it possible to train greater numbers of people
in how to use play therapy," Crane said. "Otherwise, it's sort of
hit or miss as to where that training can be found in this region
of the United States."
And Landreth said he was "very impressed" with the center's
"It took me longer to get to where Jodi is now than it has taken
her to get where she is is today," he said. "In less than 10 years,
she has started a play therapy program, is building a center for
play therapy and has held a conference for play therapy. That's
very impressive, and it also speaks of the tremendous need this
region has, as evidenced by the fact that it attracted
professionals from seven states."
Connie Stallard of Clintwood, Va., was among those who attended
the conference and hopes to become a licensed play therapist. A
30-year veteran of special education, Stallard said she sees
numerous possibilities for integrating play therapy into her
"I've seen such a need for this service in helping young
people," she said.
To learn more about play therapy, go to the Association for
Play Therapy website.