Susan Moody, play therapist, is cleaning up toys after having a play therapy session with a child in her office at Better Choices Counseling. (Herald photo / Shannon Crouch)
Susan Moody, play therapist, is cleaning up toys after having a play therapy session with a child in her office at Better Choices Counseling. (Herald photo / Shannon Crouch)
Susan Moody wants people to embrace the value of play. Particularly the parents of children with emotional, developmental, or communication delays and disorders.

“Play is the child’s language,” Moody stated. “I think society has moved in a direction where the over-reliance on electronic devices is impairing the child’s ability to develop imaginary play which is a vital part of human development.”

Next week is National Play Therapy Week which recognizes the necessity of play therapy, credentialed play therapists, and the Association for Play Therapy (APT).

The Association for Play Therapy (APT) is a national professional society established in 1982 to foster contact among mental health professionals interested in exploring and, when developmentally appropriate, applying the therapeutic power of play to communicate with and treat clients, particularly children.

“It is extremely important to raise awareness of play therapy, not just for families looking for answers to how they can help their children, but for therapists – or aspiring therapists who may not realize how great the need is in their community,” Moody said.

“There are only three registered play therapists in all of Howard County and the surrounding area,” said Moody, noting that one of the three is dedicated to working with preschoolers in the local school system. “Trying to meet the needs of all the children in that geographical area is extremely challenging.”

In addition to Moody, Laura Kirchhofer is the other local registered play therapist at LK Child & Family Therapy Center LLC. She has over 12 years of experience in the field of therapy and provides individual and group supervision.

“My passion is working with young children, families, and trauma issues. I utilizes play therapy with children and am trained in Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). Areas I focus on are: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Trauma and Abuse, Disruptive Behaviors, ADHD issues, Anxiety and Depression,” said Kirchhofer.

Moody noted that for certification, therapists must complete a minimum of 150 approved play therapy-specific training hours, as well as train under a registered play therapist supervisor.

“Like medical or mental health specialty, there is a significant difference in having a little bit of experience in a field, and having a full-blown certification,” Moody said. “Play therapy is a very structured approach that builds on the natural communicative and learning processes of the children.

“Many times they cannot verbalize why they are behaving the way they are behaving, or why they are feeling the way they are feeling. They often do not have the cognitive ability to discern those reasons,” Moody continued.

“A skilled therapist using play therapy can work through those issues in a way that is less stressful to the child, and more effective than other means.”
This mirrors the Association for Play Therapy’s own explanation for why play therapy should be considered:

“Play is a fun, enjoyable activity that elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life. It expands self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization and self-efficacy. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego. In addition, play allows us to practice skills and roles needed for survival. Learning and development are best fostered through play.”

According to Moody, play therapy assists children with communication with others, expressing feelings, behavior modification, and problem-solving among other skills.

“I’ve seen it work over and over again,” stressed fellow RPT Kirchhofer. “It is very effective for kids dealing with trauma and divorce, trying to figure their lives out and deal with change.”

Moody is President of the Indiana Association for Play Therapy, and as such, has a strong motivation for promoting play therapy awareness.

“Our organization exists to ‘train up’ professionals in play therapy throughout the state of Indiana,” she said. “If you do an internet search to find a registered play therapist you will find large geographical gaps in our own state, and throughout the country. Next week is an important opportunity to spread the word about play therapy, but it has to be a constant effort that goes beyond just a week if we are to serve all those who need served.”

The Indiana Association for Play Therapy will be holding its annual conference June 16-17 at the Ritz Charles in Carmel.

“We have hosted several nationally and internationally known experts in the field and will continue to do so,” Moody said. “We need to train the next generation of RPT’s to deal with the growing need. I cannot imagine a more rewarding field to work in, and I think others will feel the same if they take the time to investigate it.”

Kirchhofer said that the cooperative nature of play therapy is one of its strengths, and it extends beyond the child-therapist relationship.

“If I’m not connecting with a client, I can work with another play therapist who may be a better fit,” Kirchhofer said. “This is a field filled with people who have a heart for the children and want to see them establish effective connections.”

Please visit www.indianaapt.org for information about area resources or upcoming conferences and events or www.a4pt.org to learn more about the Association for Play Therapy. For more information about Better Choices Counseling, visit betterchoiceskokomo.com or to connect with Laura Kirchhofer, call (765) 878-6253.