U of A Starts Play Therapy Program to Raise Number of Qualified Counselors

Kristi Perryman directs the new Office of Play Therapy Research and Training at the University of Arkansas. Behind her, Bonni Behrend, a counselor education doctoral student, works with 2-year-old James.
Photo by Russell Cothren

Kristi Perryman directs the new Office of Play Therapy Research and Training at the University of Arkansas. Behind her, Bonni Behrend, a counselor education doctoral student, works with 2-year-old James.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas is now offering courses and training to enable graduate students and mental health professionals to become Registered Play Therapists and Supervisors.

Kristi Perryman, an assistant professor of counselor education and a Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, has worked for the past 15 years as a play therapist and directs the new Office of Play Therapy Research and Training in the College of Education and Health Professions. Perryman joined the faculty of the counselor education and supervision program in August, coming from Missouri State University. She is organizing the first workshop for students and professionals on June 12 and 13 in Fayetteville.

“The work this office will do is a perfect fit for the College of Education and Health Professions,” said Tom Smith, dean of the college. “We train professionals to work with children in all areas, from being successful academically to living healthy lives. We are pleased to have Dr. Perryman and her expertise to provide this additional dimension to our mission.”

Perryman is a Professional School Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor, and her experience includes work as a special education teacher, elementary counselor, middle school counselor, private practice therapist and counselor educator. She has written articles published in School Based Play Therapy, The Handbook of Play Therapy and the International Journal of Play Therapy. She conducts training on play therapy, sandtray therapy, expressive arts therapies and supervision.

“Children develop cognitively before they develop verbally,” Perryman said. “Play therapy allows them to express themselves through play in a safe environment. We offer them a room with therapeutic toys, and it is the counselor’s role to get on the child’s level and watch for themes in their playing that could indicate a problem. Play therapists also give suggestions to parents about what to look for.”

Family situations such as divorce, death or a job loss can be traumatic for children, but the way the child reacts and the duration of the child’s behavior may dictate whether play therapy can be helpful, Perryman said.

The national Association for Play Therapy granted designation to the new U of A office as an approved center in March. As a designated provider for the association, the U of A office is required to offer 18 hours of graduate coursework in the next three years, after which time the association will re-evaluate the designation. Continuing education hours will also be offered each year for those wanting to gain or maintain their play therapist or supervisor status.

Garry Landreth, an internationally recognized play therapist, author and presenter, will lead the June workshop, titled Child-Parent Relationship Therapy. Students and professional mental health practitioners can earn 12 continuing education units toward becoming a Registered Play Therapist or Certified Child-Parent Relationship Therapy Trainer. Information on registering is available online.

Landreth is a Regents Professor Emeritus and founder of the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas. His more than 150 journal articles, books and videos include the 2014 DVD CPRT In Action: Four Couples In A CPRT Group and the 3rd edition of his award-winning book Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Kristi Perryman, assistant professor of counselor education
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-6521, klperry@uark.edu

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


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