When Passion Shows Up

I’ll never forget the first time I saw play therapy. When my late supervisor allowed me to observe my first play therapy session I fell in love at first sight. It felt right. It felt natural to me and I loved how it worked with where the child was in their development.


That session was a pivotal moment for me. It started a passion that motivated me to pursue my career and specialty as a play therapist and play therapist supervisor. I had so much to learn, but it didn’t stop me from moving towards my goals.


I had no idea what kind of challenges lay ahead, including difficult work environments, heavy caseloads, and the level of trauma and complex issues that my young clients face with courage.


I have non-therapist friends ask me “how do you work with …(place favorite issues here). What I tell people (and myself when I’m faced with challenges of my job) is that yes, but I get to see a child heal from a trauma, connect with their parent, make new friends, learn how to stop being afraid and live a full life. I get to watch people heal and increase their faith in their God and themselves. I get to spend my day alongside young ones who deal with so much they should be too young for.


At the end of the day it’s encouraging work. It’s worth it. Some cases are sad. True. I have to constantly balance my work life, and personal life, true. I have to keep my emotions in check sometimes and my support systems close. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it.


What’s your passion? What fuels you? Leave a Comment Below about how you found your passion.

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5 Things Everyone Ought to Know about Surviving as a Play Therapist

The life of a play therapist can be pretty hectic sometimes, especially if you throw in a family, social life, and managing your own problems. These are 5 things that I do that help me to be a better play therapist.

Create a Set Work Schedule


I wake up and each day my schedule is different. I work many after school hours, mainly afternoons and evenings. I set regular hours that I schedule clients to help stay organized and balance between work and family life.


Have Go-to Creative Activities for My Clients


Before my clients arrive, I review notes, and plan the session. However, children can often be unpredictable. I remain flexible about what a child needs that day, so I have go-to activities always prepared to meet their changing needs. I use www.angriesout.com, www.creativecounseling101.com, www.lianalowenstein.com, www.pinterest.com for ideas.


Create a Trusting Relationship with Caregivers


If it’s my first session with a family, I meet with caregivers to identify the main reasons for seeking therapy. I involve parents weekly in sessions to discuss behavior issues, family stressors, child’s progress in therapy, and how to implement changes at home.


Consult with Other Counselors


Sometimes I have been working with a client for a long time, or a child has a particularly complex case. If I am stuck on a case, I seek out another therapist’s perspective to learn new ideas for a case. I have relationships with colleagues and mentors that I trust when I seek out another opinion.


Practice Self Care


I hear troubling stories, from sexual abuse, to neglect, to loss of a loved one. It can sometimes feel exhausting. In order to prevent burnout I participate in activities to relieve stress. I find journaling, being social, reading a novel, watching movies with my husband, going to church on a regular basis, and also writing to help.


I love that I witness children heal everyday, and families change. I use these techniques to remain balanced, focused, and keep the child’s needs first.


How do you survive as a play therapist or in your chosen career? Leave a comment below.

When to worry about kids’ temper tantrums

When to worry about kids’ temper tantrums

An interesting article on how to differentiate between normal pre-school aged tantrums and something that is a clue that something more is going on.

Ten Questions to Ask When Looking for a Therapist

question markSometimes when you are entering therapy for the first time at an agency or private practice it’s hard to know if you are making the right choice for your child. Think about it, when looking for a therapist, many people look up their insurance provider list, find a few names, ask a friend, pastor or teacher, and maybe look them up on the web. The following are ten things parents should ask when finding a therapist for their child.

1. What is your background in (_child’s problem__)

2. What are your fees, and do you take my insurance.

3. How long have you been practicing

4. How much will I as a caregiver be involved in my child’s therapy

5. What methods do you use (i.e. play therapy, theoretical background)

6. Can I get information about (play therapy, sandtray,) or Can you explain it to me?

7. How will I know if therapy is the right choice for my child?

8. How much will I as a parent be involve?

9. How long will therapy last?

10. What do you do if for some reason my child needs to see someone else?

Talking to Children about Hurricanes

Wondering how to talk to your children about preparing and the effects of hurricanes? Sesame Street has developed a hurricane tool kit to assist parents and children in talking about and preparing for a natural disaster. There are 5 videos, each discussing different aspects of preparation and also tips on dealing with the aftermath, such as having a routine, finding support, and self care. I watched several of the video clips, each about 15 minutes long, and they show realistic emotions, preparations and after effects. You can check out www.sesamestreet.org, click on the parents section and click on the tool kits tab. There are other topics addressed as well. As a therapist, I appreciate the approach that the folks at Sesame Street took on dealing with a disaster that can cause lots of instability for children and their families.

Favorite Therapeutic Activities for Children, Adolescents and Families: Practitioners Share their Most Effective Interventions


lowenstein_2006I am always looking for free or low cost resources, as I am a therapist on a budget (and I am sure there are many of you out there like me!). With so much info on the web it’s hard to narrow down what’s good, what’s not, and how I can find the resources I need for my clients without spending a fortune. That’s why I am soooo glad that I was sent this free copy of Favorite Therapeutic Activities for Children, Adolescents and Families: Practitioners Share their Most Effective Interventions, Edited By Liana Lowenstein, MSW, RSW, CPT-S.

This ebook is a compilation of over 100 pages of techniques submitted by multiple therapists. It is divided in to different sections: 1. Engagement and Assessment Interventions, 2. Treatment Interventions, and 3. Termination Interventions. Each intervention lists goals of the intervention, materials, advanced preparation, and detailed instructions. As I read through some of the descriptions, I found them easy to follow and detailed enough that I felt that I could easily follow the intervention. The list of contributors includes 35 different therapists, many of which are authors/presenters themselves. The best part is, that the interventions come from various treatment models, including family, sandtray, and more directive, and also integrative models. I love this, as I pull from various theories myself, and therapists from different backgrounds will all be able to glean from this book due to the wide range of ideas. I recommend this book to any child/adolescent/family therapist looking for creative ideas for their clients, as it is FREE!!! and FULL of creative interventions. What do you have to lose? I will be using this resource for a long time, and can’t wait to try some of the ideas with my clients.


Liana Lowenstein is a presenter and also author of multiple books including:

1. Paper Dolls & Paper Airplanes: Therapeutic Exercises for Sexually Traumatized Children (with Crisci & Lay)

2. Creative Interventions for Troubled Children & Youth

3. Creative Interventions for Children of Divorce.

4. Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children.

5. NEWEST PUBLICATION: Creative Family Therapy Techniques: Play, Art, and Expressive Activities to Engage Children in Family Sessions


She has edited: Volumes One and Two of Assessment and Treatment Activities for Children, Adolescents, and Families: Practitioners Share Their Most Effective Techniques, and will be launching Volume Three this year.


To sign up for the free ebook, visit Liana Lowenstein’s website and sign up for her free monthly newsletter. You can also view her upcoming workshops.

Play Therapy Works!

I stumbled across this video describing the value of play therapy for children who experience emotional and behavioral issues. Check it out, and also check out the Association for Play Therapy website for more info on play therapy and to find a play therapist

I Survived the APT Conference!

I Survived the APT Conference!

I went to the Association for Play Therapy Conference in Atlanta, GA last week. What a blast! I enjoyed several workshops, and lots of toy shopping. I even visited the Self Esteem Shop to find my book, Sam Feels Better Now: An Interactive Story for Children, sitting on the shelf. I met with colleagues, friends, and speakers. It reminded me of what I love about APT and play therapy.

Highlights of the conference included a plenary speaker, Dr. Eliana Gil who shared her journey to play therapy, the new Leadership Academy Graduates, and the presentation of the Key Awards, including, APT Service Award , Lifetime Achievement Award, Professional Education & Training Award , Public Education & Promotion Award, Research Award, and Student Research Award.

This was my first Association for Play Therapy National Conference, and I am looking forward to attending again in the future.

Billy Had to Move, a Story of Foster Care, Interview With Theresa Fraser

Today’s guest is Theresa Fraser, Author of “Billy Had to Move,” a story about a boy in foster care who goes to therapy following the death of his grandmother.

Theresa Fraser has worked in Children’s Mental Health in Canada since 1983. She has supported children in her role as a Child and Youth Worker, Therapeutic Foster Parent, Foster parent resource worker and now Therapist. She is the Manager of Clinical Services at Branching Out a Play Therapy Resource Program in Ontario, Canada.

She is a part time Professor at Mohawk College in a Child and Youth Worker Program.    Theresa’s first book is entitled Billy had to move and she hopes to publish other therapeutic books that will help children in the future.

Theresa and her husband have fostered children over the last twenty years. They have six children ranging in age from 20 – 7 years of age.  


What age group is Billy had to move geared for?

Though Billy is seven in the story, this book is geared for children 7 and up who may have had or are experiencing loss, foster care or beginning therapy.

I have read Billy to older children who could relate to Billy’s worries about getting into trouble or knowing how to tie his shoes. Recently, I was present when a developmentally delayed 11 year old was told that she was moving into a new foster home and she loved receiving her own copy of Billy Had to Move.

Through her tears, she verbalized that he was scared too and “  it turned out good for Billy so maybe it will be ok for me”.



What inspired you to write it?


Billy was one of many stories that I have used with children during therapy to help normalize their feelings.  Many of these stories contain themes that are so common for children that I and many other Child Therapists work with.


How did you decide to pursue writing?

I have always expressed myself with words. As a child and teen I won poetry competitions and had poetry published in a national newspaper.

I knew I would write fiction as an adult however, to be honest I didn’t think of publishing my children’s stories until I received encouragement from a colleague at an International Play Therapy Study group.


What other projects have you written or are working on?

I am told that an article I submitted to a journal will be published in the fall. Though I have many other stories, I would like to have a story about adoption published in the future.

I also regularly contribute articles to a Canadian Play Therapy magazine entitled, Playground. This magazine is circulated three times a year to therapists across Canada.


How can therapists and caregivers use this book?

This book can be read in it’s entirety over a few reading opportunities or pieces that are applicable can be pulled out. It is not a quick read for sure and time should also be provided to help debrief with the child if any parts of the story were triggering or cathartic.

Given there are a few themes identified, it is a story that can support a child who has experienced disenfranchised loss arising from a missing parent or loss via death. Anxiety symptoms are also labeled which can be helpful for caregivers who have a child who is struggling with utilizing healthy coping strategies. It can also assist children who are beginning therapy as the concepts of confidentiality and treatment goals are introduced at the end of the story.


What advice do you have for therapists and caregivers who work with foster children?

I am not sure I would give advice to be honest. I think that generally foster parents know their foster children the best and can be the least acknowledged member of the treatment team.

Organizations like the Foster Family Treatment Association do much to provide treatment foster parents with:

  • training at a yearly conference
  • participate in national and local Child welfare coalitions and public policy committees
  • help to advocate to define the treatment foster care model and  for increased standards of care across the United States

I believe in foster care and have seen many success stories.

In North America there are also regular foster home placements and these foster families work hard to meet the day to day needs of children – often with less supports than treatment foster parents.

I have noted an internet link for the FFTA for your readers as I truly respect the work that they are contributing to support foster care service provision.

I have also noted a link that your readers could utilize to hear the stories of teens and young adults who have grown up in foster care as well as Foster care workers and foster parents. Their stories cannot be easily forgotten and are each less than three minutes long.


How does being a foster parent impact your clinical work?

My experiences impact my work every day whether I am working with a foster child, a foster family, bio or adopted family or facilitating a foster parent training.

I know what it is like to watch your foster child get over the top anxious about a visit and drive an hour to be stood up by their mom or dad. I also know how important it is to honor birth parents for children who may not even remember what they look like.

Also, it is important to remember that  no matter what has happened to disrupt that child being able to live or visit with their biological parents, it is important to honor their presence or past presence in the child’s life.

I also know how hard it is to be a foster parent. Your life, your home, your decisions are always under a microscope. You often fight the old prejudices that have occurred because there have been kids abused or neglected in foster care.

I like to refer to foster parents as the Primary Clinician,  and I think that if they are not supported to be in this role, we are wasting lots of therapeutic time that is spent with the child in  need on a daily basis. As a therapist I hope that I provide a healing space and opportunity for a child but I also want to support the person who is working with the child the most to develop a therapeutic rapport. They create many more therapeutic moments than I ever could in my one hour of service provision a week.

Understanding the challenges and gifts of being not only a foster parent but also a foster family helps we to be more mindful that I am only one part of the child’s treatment team and we all know the old adage, it takes a village to raise a child.

So I guess I would like to add that I believe the story of Billy reinforces this concept of teamwork by the way the many helpers in this story are not only introduced but also work together to help the child.


Thanks Jill for inviting me to participate in this interview.  Your readers are welcome to visit my web page or send me an email if they have any further questions or comments. I appreciate the opportunity to share my passion about my work and this book.

Exciting New Projects!

With a successful launch of “Sam Feels Better Now! An Interactive Story for Children” I am working on several new projects (along with juggling a full time job, hehe!). Two main projects are a children’s picture book for children who have experienced divorce, and the second one is a manual for therapist on how to run a children’s support group for domestic violence survivors. I am especially excited about the children’s support group manual. I am hoping to use the material to start giving some workshops in the future. I can’t wait to see it come together!