“Play is the most powerful communication tool for children because it gives them the ability to express themselves without having to use words.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
When I was a child, I saw a therapist who was so kind and attentive that I realized I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I held the warmth she showed me for many years and I still hold it with me today. When I went to college, I volunteered for a domestic violence hotline and I decided that I wanted to do trauma work. But I didn't want to do trauma work with children, because that would be very hard. However, when you go to social work school, they match you with field placements that you don't want so that you experience something challenging. So of course, I was placed with children…….and it was the best experience I had ever had. I've always gone back and forth and wondered, “Do I like working with adults? Do I like working with young kids?” I think the answer is that I just like working with people. I feel honored that people trust me to share their stories and I hope we can do some great work together and that they'll feel some of the warmth I received as a child.
What should someone know about working with you?
Therapy takes time and patience and I want to start where you are. For some people, it takes time to warm up to the space. I provide an intake form to get more information and for some, we can do this more informally. Over time, you will see small changes and we will take time to reflect on the little things. Sometimes, it's hard to see change when you're in the change.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
I am excited that therapy is starting to feel like a normal thing that can be for everyone. So often I hear kids and teens tell me that things related to therapy are just normal now. Therapy isn't something they have to hide and it's something their friends are all doing. The language is changing. Our brains are a part of our bodies and deserve the same care. I recently heard someone say that we should have mental health checkups similar to wellness checkups and I love this idea. Then, we can really take the stigma out of mental health.
Have you done any research-based work that you found particularly exciting? How does it inform your practice today?
When I was in college, I did some fascinating research on alcohol use and how college-aged people perceived drinking. Honestly, I don't do anything related to alcohol use, so this research doesn't inform my practice at all but it was very interesting. I think it taught me that I don't want to do research because I felt very disconnected from the people who were doing the surveys.
How does play work in therapy?
Play is the most powerful communication tool for children because it gives them the ability to express themselves without having to use words. Often, we see children having a hard time because we are asking them to use words when they don't have the words to express what they feel. We can see how they feel through their play, whether this is through symbolic play (with dolls, houses, or cars) or by playing certain games. We can also use games to build skills, such as impulse control, self-expression, emotional regulation, and more. Play is a great way to build relationships as well, which are keys to being able to talk about challenging feelings.
“Often, we see children having a hard time because we are asking them to use words when they don't have the words to express what they feel.”