Some time ago, I wrote about the spirit of a play therapist—the idea that each of us brings something unique and extraordinary to the play therapy room that is a blend of our own way of being in the world along with the evolving style of play that naturally fits us. As I contemplated this further, I found myself even more in tune with not only the play therapist spirit, but the play therapist heart. I particularly found this while observing my wonderful play therapy colleagues, noticing that there is something quite extraordinary about their hearts, the kind of dedication to children that is unrivaled and awe-inspiring. It inspired me to put together a collection of characteristics typical of those amazing people with whom I have the privilege of being connected. Because they are naturally a playful bunch, I take the approach of a well-known list format, as these attributes range from the inspiring, to the humorous, to the moving. Let’s go:
You might be a play therapist if:
- You think nothing of blowing your entire work budget (is there such a thing?) on a hundred sand-tray miniatures in one short shopping spree—and come back again for “just one more” tomorrow.
- Your eyes light up at the mere glance at the stuffed animal and puppet section in your local department store.
- You visit any toy website and get lost in a time warp where hours have passed since you ate, drank, or slept.
- You don’t focus on the hours you work, but on the hearts you heal—no matter how many “overtime” hours there are.
- Your own children ask you if you are ever going to become a grown up.
- You get that play therapists are not just people who play puzzles on the floor…but you also recognize the inherent value in playing that same puzzle on the floor.
- You begin to salivate and your eyes glaze over when you walk into the arts and crafts stores.
- You can be a seemingly endless container to hold the worst horrors imaginable.
- You willingly lose nights of sleep preparing to bravely and courageously stride into a courtroom to testify and advocate for the safety and well-being of the little one you cradle in your care.
- You spend countless hours of your personal time reading, studying, and staying current with the most effective and helpful play therapy treatment strategies—and you love it.
- You can’t remember the last time you read a novel for fun—and you don’t care.
- You have a creative heart and mind that rivals anyone else’s on earth.
- You see the entire world as a playground.
- Though you love tools and props, you never underestimate the value of a rock, some dirt, a stick, water, or a simple box.
- Your heart can hold the elements of trauma and hope simultaneously, a ready container for the former and an abundant source of the latter.
- You have an uncanny ability to speak a child’s language—in a way that they actually hear it.
- You hold each child you see in the arms of reverence, delight, and connectedness.
- You find yourself smiling, nodding, laughing, or tearing up in recognition at any part during this list reading.
So, this is in tribute to all of my fellow play therapists out there, those I know well and those of you I’ve never met. I have seen this in you and have been inspired, amazed, and blessed to witness it. I have been honored to share time with you in places where your play therapist spirits and hearts shine! I can only hope to exemplify the same in my own playful practice. Thank you for blessing me, but most importantly, for blessing the young ones who desperately need you!
In the Light of a playful heart,
Cherie L. Spehar
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