Play therapy program keeps growing

Henderson State University was the first university in Arkansas to establish a Center for Play Therapy and to earn accreditation.

The highly successful and innovative program was established in 2013 by its former director Dr. Franc Hudspeth. The program continues to grow with plans for new courses to keep up with student demand.

“We have many people interested in our play therapy program,” said Dr. Rochelle Moss, associate professor of counselor education. “Some are already counselors, and others are students who are still working on their undergraduate degree and really want to work with kids.”

Play therapy is a form of counseling or psychotherapy that uses play to communicate with and help people, especially children, to prevent or resolve psychosocial challenges.

“Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others,” according to the Arkansas Association of Play Therapy. “Play therapy provides a safe, developmentally appropriate environment for children to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that works for them.”

Moss said the “ideal” student who would make a successful play therapist usually wants to work with children.

“They have a love for children and are able to establish a warm, caring relationship,” she said. “They can get on the child’s level, understanding developmental issues of different age groups.”

Many of the techniques and strategies also work well with adults,” Moss said.

“The sand tray therapy is an excellent example,” she said. “An individual would place objects in the sand to represent issues for which they’re trying to gain clarity or a deeper understanding. Through manipulating the objects and processing with the counselor, this technique can be very effective.”

Play therapy is currently offered as elective courses at Henderson, but the university is working toward a certificate program.

“The program is progressing,” Moss said. “We have three play therapy courses in place in which the students will obtain the majority of their hours required for the certificate.”

Many agencies want counselors who are trained in working with children, she said.

“Most employers don’t require a registered play therapist, but this training will certainly help counselors to be more employable,” Moss said. “If counselors go into private practice, they can advertise as a registered play therapist.” 

Moss said about 25-30 students receive their play therapy certificate each year. “They still must complete their requirements to be a licensed professional counselor and have 500 hours of supervision specific to play therapy,” she said.

For more information about Henderson’s Play Therapy Institute, contact Moss at mossr@hsu.edu, or Eric Jett at jette@hsu.edu.

To learn more about Henderson’s counselor education program, go to hsu.edu/CounselorEd.