Let’s welcome my next guest blogger is Kamini Verma as she dives into becoming play therapist! 

Common Hurdles In Becoming A Registered Play Therapist

When I decided I wanted to officially take the leap to become a registered play therapist I found many resources that outlined the steps I needed to take. I especially found the Association for Play Therapy (APT) website helpful, as well as a few blogs that offered a breakdown of each step to see if registration was even plausible. I hunkered down, reviewing my graduate course load to make sure I met all the requirements. Then I started to attend trainings and conferences, identified clients that would benefit from play therapy, networked, and began the search for a registered play therapy supervisor. Then I hit a lull. What do I do now? How do I utilize my agency’s space to validly implement the play therapy interventions I now have at my fingertips? What do I do without any resources to create or fill a playroom? All of these elements are daunting at first. Here is how I am dealing with each of these barriers.

To Become Registered or Not?

I did not attend an undergraduate school or graduate school that offered a dual degree and certification in play therapy. As a working student, if the class was not in the evening I could not take it, thus I missed the play therapy classes that were only offered during the day. I like working with kids and find play therapy to be the best clinical model there is for this population. Once I connected my own practice style with the theory I was off and running! Registration builds my network and connections with professionals, as well as expands my knowledge base to ensure fidelity to the variety of modalities.  

Limited Budget

As I have met other play therapists in private practice and school settings it is apparent we all have the same hurdle. Justifying the expense of toys in an already limited budget or finding the means to furnish the playroom from our own income. As Pinterest is my best friend, I was thrilled to find lists of toys and storage options that could be found at the local Dollar Store. I was frustrated to learn that not all dollar stores across the state, or even in my own town, carried the same items. Finding what I was looking for often required many trips and “travel” to smaller towns that may offer more supplies in their local store. I have found my best resource to be the support of my friends and family. Once, I posted a plea on Facebook and was met with offers to post in online Mommy Groups, as well as search through their own children’s outgrown toys to help me fill my space. I also posted lists in public recreation centers or schools hoping I could be added to someone’s donation list. Of course, I perused Goodwill and local consignment stores for items.

Limited Space

I have been able to identify with school play therapists over limited space options. My office does not quite meet the Garry Landreth specifications as outlined in Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship so working with my agency administration to find the best options was the first step. School settings, or even leasing your own office space, can put up the same barrier due to lack of space or budget to rent a big enough space. I am learning to be creative with my space and storage solutions. Toys are visible but organized or folded away. It is like having a portable play therapy kit in an office setting! To create this, I found the most help in researching portable play kits, which you can create yourself or purchase from various retailers.

Administration Unfamiliar with Play Therapy

I work for an agency that offers many medical services, one of which is behavioral health counseling. They are supportive of their clinicians exploring a variety of modalities and utilizing them in sessions, but everything has to be reviewed under the requirements of various regulatory boards and grantors. This is especially difficult when the people making these decisions are not familiar with play therapy and the existing research behind the various theoretical approaches. It can often look like we are “just playing with kids.” I started with the evidence based practice statement on the APT website to show the method behind the madness. I harkened back to my graduate school days and created a research based proposal using Garry Landreth’s teachings and publications. When the administration was able to see the foundation of the modality we were able to have a more open dialogue of how to offer play therapy in the existing setting. Still, I needed to define why play therapy was a helpful modality…

Therapeutic Play vs. Play Therapy

If you work with kids your sessions typically involve playing with them. You do not have to be a registered play therapist to use play in your practice, but I have found understanding the theory behind the actions to enhance my practice exponentially. I am not “just playing” with kids. I am giving them the words to express their thoughts, feelings, and life story within a relationship. Using play as a therapeutic tool can teach many life lessons regarding specific techniques. Play therapy helps the child find their own way to self-regulation and emotional balance within their current developmental and cognitive level. This article by Garry Landreth and Sue Bratton summed the thoughts I had in my mind, giving proof that there is research to what my gut was telling me to do in sessions.

Next Steps

Now I have the supplies. I have been creative with my space. The administration is on board. I created informed consent among my client base. Who knew I would have so many steps before I even started supervision? My next steps are to find the right supervisor to guide me. I hope that you’ll stay tuned for my journey!

Kamini Verma, LCSW

Ms. Verma is a therapist in Texas that is passionate about assisting children and their families through periods of healing, development and growth. She has 10+ years of experience working with children, adolescents and their families on topics related to healing from trauma and abuse, crisis intervention, creating home stability, adoption, attachment, grief and loss, mindfulness and questions of sexuality. Kamini is a Trust Based Relational Intervention ® Certified Educator. She enjoys crafting, cookie decorating and spending time with loved ones in between pursuing her Registered Play Therapist certification.

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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