Monday, August 3, 2009

Georgia State’s Play Therapy Training Institute nationally recognized

A national professional organization has recognized Georgia State University’s Play Therapy Training Institute in the College of Education for its substantial research, publications and graduate-level instruction.

The Association for Play Therapy, a non-profit based in California, recently designated Georgia State’s institute an “Approved Center of Play Therapy Education,” a gold seal of approval in the field.

“Because the rapidly increasing use of play therapy is also boosting demand for more university play therapy programs, [the association] applauds Georgia State University for its continued support of the Institute," said Bill Burns, executive director of the Association for Play Therapy.

Play therapy is a form of counseling in which licensed mental health professionals incorporate the use of play to better communicate with clients. It is particularly effective with children who communicate their ideas and feelings more easily through play.

Georgia State’s Play Therapy Training Institute was founded in 2007 by its initial director, JoAnna White, chair of the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services. She and the current director, Lauren Wynne, expanded its targeted participants from elementary and middle school counseling students to include students in other counseling programs and non-degree students who typically work in local mental health professions.

The institute was applauded for its efforts to provide play therapy training and supervision, which often takes place in the state-of-the-art play therapy room in the College of Education.
“It’s a wonderful space where our students can learn play therapy by doing,” Wynne said. “People can learn a lot from a book and watching a video, but it’s a different thing to spend time with children in play room that’s equipped with the different categories of toys a child can choose from and receive immediate feedback from an instructor about their play therapy skills.”

The institute’s research was also recognized; most notably an ongoing project on whether play therapy can improve children’s attendance, on-task behaviors and academic performance in schools.

Wynne, White and GSU doctoral students have trained more than 45 teachers at three elementary schools in metro Atlanta to use a form of play therapy, called “Kinder Training,” as an intervention to strengthen the bond between student and teacher. The project is a partnership between GSU, Gwinnett County Public Schools and Gwinnett County’s Safe and Drug Free Schools Program.

“These skills can help teachers relate to their children in a meaningful way and create a classroom environment centered around the whole child,” White said.

The institute has expanded its presence in the field through publications and by offering a day-long conference each spring that draws people from across the United States.

“Locally, people have known that we offer training and supervision in play therapy and people within our field know we’re contributing to the research base,” Wynne said. “But now we’re receiving regional and national interest in our program, which is wonderful.”

Established in 1982, the Association of Play Therapy advances the field of play therapy and offers core research, training and credentialing programs to its 5,600 member psychologists, social workers, counselors and family therapists. It publishes a quarterly peer-reviewed journal and a quarterly magazine, the September issue of which will feature Georgia State’s Play Therapy Training Institute.

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