The UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education this summer hosted the 12th Annual Multicultural Play Therapy Center Conference. Drawing more than 700 total participants, the five-day conference covered various topics in play therapy and featured lectures from experts in the field.
The annual event provides mental health therapists, K-12 counselors and professional school counselors an opportunity to expand their skills in play therapy.
“Our program provides training for counselors who work with children under 10 years old,” said program director Phyllis Post. “Young children are not able to express themselves well with words, because of their conceptual level of development. Their natural way of communicating about their experiences and their feelings is through play.”
Play therapy is the practice of therapeutic methods that encourage children’s communicative processes through play. Skilled therapists use play to allow children who cannot verbally convey their thoughts and emotions to express themselves through actions. By using toys, games and other structured activities, play therapists help children cope with difficult emotions and resolve their problems.
The summer conference advances the mission of the Multicultural Play Therapy Center. The center seeks to educate the surrounding region in play therapy and provide support to therapists through the educational experiences of conferences, training sessions and a graduate certificate in play therapy.
The five-day conference presented training sessions on numerous aspects of play therapy including deeper issues in child-centered play therapy, Theraplay and how to use play therapy methods to support grieving children. This in-depth presentation on play therapy and how it can be implemented is what drew Keely Bailey to attend the conference.
“I’m in private practice and I’m always looking for additional resources,” she said. “I’ve been interested in play therapy for a long time and what I’ve learned at this conference confirmed that I want to learn more and incorporate it into my practice.”
The Cato College of Education offers the only program in North Carolina that provides a concentration in play therapy. Professionals who have received master’s degrees in counseling, social work, or psychology can complete the twelve credit hour program to receive a graduate certificate in play therapy. Current counseling graduate students may also take the required coursework to receive a play therapy concentration while working towards their graduate degrees.
According the Dr. Post, there is a growing interest in both play therapy and UNC Charlotte’s graduate program, as was demonstrated by the turn out at this event. She hopes that this year’s conference offered attendees inspiration and encouraged new ways of thinking about working with young children.