U of A Celebrates National Play Therapy Week as Office Reaches First Anniversary

University Relations

The University of Arkansas is celebrating the approach of the first anniversary of the Office of Play Therapy Research and Training as licensed mental health professionals throughout the nation will observe National Play Therapy Week the week of Feb. 7-13.

Kristi Perryman, an assistant professor of counselor education in the College of Education and Health Professions, created the play therapy office last year. It received its designation as a nationally approved center by the Association for Play Therapy on March 6.

Perryman joined the U of A faculty in the fall of 2014 and had worked for the past 15 years as a play therapist and also taught at Missouri State University. She issued an invitation to the campus community, the public and mental health professionals from schools and agencies to attend an open house of the play therapy program. The open house will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, March 14 in Room 136 of the Graduate Education Building. Students considering pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in counseling are encouraged to come meet faculty members.

Play is our first language, according to the Association for Play Therapy, the national professional society that advances play therapy. Just as adults use words to communicate, children use play to express thoughts and feelings that might otherwise remain hidden. Thousands of licensed mental health professionals use play therapeutically to help their clients, especially children, to describe and manage their behaviors and mental health problems, according to the association.

"We are thrilled with the response to our program from Northwest Arkansas and around the state," Perryman said. "Our inaugural summer conference, Child Parent Relationship Training with Dr. Garry Landreth, was attended by 106 participants from all over Arkansas and southwest Missouri. Our second-annual conference will be June 24-25 with Dr. Dee Ray from the University of North Texas."

Perryman said the faculty have created coursework in the past year to ensure that students can obtain the full 150 hours needed for the educational portion of becoming a registered play therapist in a year's time.

"We also have a playroom in which students work with children from the community, and we received a gracious donation from retired play therapist Mrs. Doris A. Schuldt," Perryman said. "She donated her extensive play therapy library to the Office of Play Therapy Research and Training to expand resources for students who are training to become play therapists."

National School Counseling Week sponsored by the American School Counselor Association is being celebrated this week, Feb. 1-5. Recently, the Association for Play Therapy changed its requirements, allowing school counselors to become Registered Play Therapists.

"This is very exciting because school counselors work with students daily, and play is the most developmentally appropriate method of counseling children," Perryman said.

The play therapy office and curriculum are part of the counselor education program in the College of Education and Health Professions training both school and community mental health professionals. Play therapy training enables all mental health professionals working with children a specialized scope of practice.

This spring, the counseling program has partnered with John Brown University and the Bentonville School District to place interns specifically trained in play therapy in elementary schools to work with students as part of the Early Connections program.

"As more students are trained in this specialty area, we hope to partner with other Northwest Arkansas schools to offer play therapy," Perryman said.

The U of A offers both master's and doctoral degrees in counseling. The Master of Science degree offers specialties in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Both degree programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.


Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu

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