Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Child and Family Therapist
Incorporating Creativity, Expressive Arts, Mindfulness, Nature & Play
I enjoy helping clinicians on their path towards licensure, either for LCSW or LPC, here in Tennessee. Since April 2020 these supervision sessions have been primarily offered in a virtual format. Just as I use creativity, expressive arts, mindfulness, nature, play and sandtray in therapy, I also love to incorporate them in supervision as well! We also address the need for intentional self-care.
Licensed clinicians can also benefit from consultation. I have found in the past few years that the needs for self-care among helping professionals are growing. While this is often a part of supervision, more is needed - as even seasoned therapists are finding themselves more challenged than ever. In addition to consultations, I also started offering retreats in this area of professional self-care in 2021, and now hold one each year in November. (Learn more about this on the Presentations page.) I am also willing to host and organize self-care retreat for others in our field, including agencies and practice groups, as well as those in other fields. (As many professions have their own stressors and struggles.) I also beleive that If I am going to teach and share with others about self-care, I must also practice it. As such I often go on solo retreats to area bed & breakfasts to nurture my own self-care- and keep an eye out for future retreat spaces!
I've been asked more than a few times how and why I came to utilize play therapy as part of my social work practice. Earlier in my career I often had to explain the necessity of play for children and their emotional well-being as well as to overcome emotional challenges and traumatic experiences. Over my more than thirty years of practice I have since seen a greater understanding about the need for play, and often get contacted for services specifically because I am a play therapist. It is hard to admit that I was not taught about expressive arts or play therapy in my graduate training, as It was not as recognized as it is now.
My final intership during graduate school was at Vanderbilt Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital and Out-Patient Clinic in Nashville. It cemented my desire to work with children and families, primarily using family therapy as that was the "social worker" role.
I began working with a community mental health center right after graduation. A large part of my position when I first started was to provide counseling to physically and sexually abused children. Right away I began working with very young children (one of my first clients was four years old) and I realised I would need additional training to do so, not just to learn more about treatment for trauma and abuse issues; but also how to work with children so young. Thankfully, Drs. Byron and Carol Norton of Greeley, Colorado presented in Nashville in late 1990 on "Reaching Children through Play Therapy". It was a life-changing moment in my professional life that I will never forget. I had found what I needed to do my therapeutic work with children: Play Therapy.
I sought additional training in the field and studied for two summers at one of the premiere play therapy training centers in the world: The Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas under the direction of Dr. Garry Landreth- I refer to him as the play therapy version of Mister Rogers! I knew thay I not only wanted to provide play therapy in my practice but I wanted others to be able to be trained in it as well, so was dedicated to that purpose. I was able to work with several colleagues to co-found a state branch for a play therapy association here in 1993. I also became the first credentialed play therapist and supervisor in Tennessee back in 1994, which I held and practiced with through March 2023. There has been tremendous growth about play therapy in these past thirty-plus years. My time providing play therapy, supervising aspiring play therapists, and more recently training about play therapy has been incredibly rewarding. However I also found myself needing to make some changes, some due to the fact that I now teach full-time at MTSU, and my practice times are more limited.
While I will continue to provide play therapy, I am expanding my scope of practice beyond play therapy practice to write, train and supervise as a child and family therapist and social worker integrating creativity, play and expressive therapies, including sandtray, mindfulness, nature and more. I am transitioning to include more involvement with international play associations, as well as nature organizations, to promote play and creativity for emotional well-being, and empasizing the need for free play, creative play, risky play and nature play. This is an important next step as the need for creativity, nature and play extends beyond the therapeutic playroom. As such, I am excited at becoming more involved with macro practice at this stage of my career by working with programs addressing emotional wellness for children and teens and their families. And I may just have to write about this too!
Over the years I have been able to attend many trainings and conferences all over the country and have been trained by most of the legends in our field- from Eliana Gil, Violet Oaklander and Marie-Jose Dhaese to Garry Landreth and Charles Schaefer and more.
I am so passionate about play and expressive therapies as they truly are the best ways to "reach children", going back to those same first words when I was introduced to play therapy back in 1990. Play is the language of children and there is mounting research supporting play therapy as an evidence-based treatment modality that can be incorporated and integrated with expressive arts and nature-based interventions with children, teens and families.
I also have to include that the worlds of imagination, make-believe and puppetry were forever opened to me as a child by watching such great shows as Mister Roger's Neighborhood and Sesame Street. I truly believed that Mister Rogers was speaking directly to me when he would say daily: "There's no person in the whole world just like you, and I like you just the way you are!" Now I get to speak those same words to children; sometimes as me, sometimes as a puppet character, but always with meaning. (And while I don't have the cardigan, I do sometimes have the sneakers!) He valued childrens' feelings and inspired creativity and imagination for so many.
Mister Rogers also brings hope for us all. He tells us to "look for the helpers in times of tragedy". Another one of his sayings that I love: "Anyone who helps a chid in his life is a hero to me!" How could I not treasure this man and his influence!
In September 2022 I was excited to accept the invitation to join the Educators Neighborhood, which is a project of the Fred Rogers Institute.