So I have a secret.
I never really wanted to work with kids. Well, I wanted to work with teens, but definitely not younger kids. I mean - what would I do with a kindergartener?
I had gone to graduate school and had a tiny sprinkle of child and teen mental health in a very adult focused field and program. My college experience included a diagnostic class that a couple of weeks focused on the DC:0-3, which is now the DC:0-5 (Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood), a child development course, and I had a one credit summer class on creative expressions in therapy.
At this point I had decided that focusing on teens and high school age kids was my passion. My absolute jam!
I did my internships with programs where I got to see kids and teens across the span from within their high school day, in an outpatient clinic, within a juvenile detention center, and within a long term crisis shelter.
I was hooked!
I also got my first taste of Child Centered Play Therapy, which was incredibly strange. I just could not wrap my head around how entering the playroom, sword fighting, and building with blocks could be helpful or effective.
Wasn’t this just playing?
As I transitioned from internship to diving in head first as a therapist, I sought out my first job as a contracted therapist within several different high schools. I got to see teens within their school day, feel the pulse of the school, and be a resource for crisis situations.
I loved it! It was everything I was hoping for and more! My foundational CBT training was working well and I could see how teens were shifting their thinking and making different choices leading to a happier and more regulated life!
And then, just like that the grant funding for my program fell through. Gone *poof*
And so was my job.
But there waaaaas several positions opening within my agency that I could apply for that was school based in a new district *wheew*. I could definitely just work at the highschool in this new district, right?
Wrong - I got assigned to two different elementary schools that housed Kindergarten through 6th grade students. To say that I felt like a fish out of water is an understatement. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques I had learned in graduate school were…. well… just not very effective.
Oh…and they were pretty darn boring for young people.
It was then I started on the journey of becoming trained in this thing called Play Therapy. And I went all in - trainings, blogs, books, articles, and hitting up my favorite co-workers. We had an amazing Adlerian Play Therapist who was able to provide staff training and my mind began to shift about the possibilities of how to help children effectively.
I began to realize there was more to children’s mental health treatment than talking it out.
It was as I was transitioning from school to doing agency work that I did a deeper dive into Child Centered Play Therapy work. I met an amazing Registered Play Therapist who was Child Centered and absolutely convinced in its effectiveness for the treatment of children’s mental health. She let me observe her sessions, ask a million questions, consult, and told me more times that I can count to trust the process!
This theory definitely felt clunky, the tracking and facilitative statements felt odd, awkward, and disjointed, and I honestly didn’t see how being with a child in this way would help. How did playing with the dollhouse or having a battle with the superheroes and villains help with goals related to anxiety, anger, separation anxiety, and trauma?
Then after practice, practice, practice… It started to work. In wildly big ways!
Kids that I never taught one regulation skill started to have significantly less tantrums. The clients that were terrified to sleep by themselves were able to confidently drift off to sleep in their own beds. The kids that had difficult and traumatic life events started to build a new future.
They were figuring it out in beautiful ways with the relationship at the forefront without one suggestion, skill, or prompt from me.
Then…the rest is history! I absolutely fell in love with Play Therapy and working with children and their families. Children actually enjoyed coming to session, were able to communicate in their own language, and still to this day I am in awe of seeing the therapeutic powers of play support and improve the lives of children!
This is what ignites my passion for consultation and supervision with professionals, creating my training library, and serving on the Minnesota Association for Play Therapy where I am honored to be their current president.
I would love to help support you wherever you are on your journey in the world of Play Therapy. Check out my training school HERE.
AND if you are like me and need more support in your Child Centered Play Therapy work check out my training on Dinosaurs in the Dollhouse: Interpreting Themes in Play Therapy or Child Centered Play Therapy: Troubleshooting the 13 Biggest Stuck Points!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,