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Play Therapy Certificate Program graduates first 12 students

Play Therapy certificate gradsTo provide counselors with further education in highly specialized fields, Stetson University has graduated its first group of students on Aug. 15, with a Certificate in Play Therapy.

Admitting only 12 select students, the program is currently taught in three successive courses in both the spring and summer semesters. Additional certificate programs in Trauma Therapy and Sex Therapy are in development.

Each student must be enrolled or have completed their master’s in a mental health-related field, and are required to complete 150 classroom hours. A local partnership with Head Start provides students with hands-on work with children in the community who are dealing with social, emotional and sometimes traumatic circumstances where play therapy has effectively helped them and their families.

Page Thanasiu, Ph.D., assistant professor of Counselor Education and director of the Play Therapy Certificate Program, wrote the curriculum, created the program and secured the accreditation from the Association for Play Therapy, where students can later apply to become a Registered Play Therapist, internationally recognized in their profession.

“Developmentally, it’s more appropriate for children to process trauma, emotions and difficult situations through play. We teach our students to assist children with these tasks and also to educate parents on ways to help their own children,” Thanasiu explained.

Lindsey Stenborg, who graduated with a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Stetson in 2012, waited patiently to attend this program. Currently working at a non-profit community counseling agency in Volusia County, she helps families, couples and children, primarily those who have been sexually abused or who are dealing with significant trauma in their lives, such as witnessing the death of a parent in a car crash.

“The most beneficial part of the program was the ability to learn the skills in class and immediately use them to assist my young clients,” Stenborg said. “I loved that I could ‘learn it and then go do it.’ Learning in a cohort setting has allowed us to build a strong bond whereby we regularly connect to support each other through many life events.”

Beth Patton expects to graduate with her Master’s in Counselor Education with a major in School Counseling from Stetson in May 2016. It was her decade-long work as a full-time nanny while attending school and also working as a high school teacher, which solidified her goal of working more closely counseling school-aged children.

“When I heard about the impending Play Therapy Certificate Program, I told Dr. Thanasiu, ‘sign me up!’ I feel grateful to learn from a professor that is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about play therapy,” Patton said. “It is like learning a new language which has completely transformed the way I now approach my work with children in a therapeutic setting.”

After several years in the hospitality industry, Lindsay Moynihan decided counseling would be a more fulfilling profession and returned for her second bachelor’s degree, this time in psychology. She is now preparing to receive her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Stetson in December 2016.

As a caseworker in the HIV/AIDS field, Moynihan has helped patients gain access to treatment and currently supervises an HIV testing program. “I feel the course provided an excellent foundation and provided the tools to become a Registered Play Therapist. I also was interested in the Expressive Arts which assist teens and adults,” she said.

“Dr. Thanasiu has created an outstanding program,” shared Leila F. Roach, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Counselor Education. “Countless young lives will be comforted and families will become more stable from the work of our faculty and the dedication of our students.”

“Stetson’s Boundless Learning is excited about our collaboration with the Play Therapy program. Together we have effectively developed this new program and designed a streamlined process which both funds the program and expedites student registrations. Drs. Thanasiu and Roach focus on the curriculum and we handle the logistics,” said Joy McGuirl-Hadley, Ed.D., associate vice president of Boundless Learning. “Most importantly, we are enthusiastic about the many lives this program will touch in the years to come.”

Pictured, left to right–back row: Page Thanasiu, Adam Colando, Lindsay Moynihan, Carolina Barrientos, Elizabeth Flostrand, Stephanie Stock, Lindsey Stenborg, Abe Velez. Front row: Beth Patton, Lauren Humphries. (Not pictured: Nicole Pizza, Dixie Meekhof.)

Mary M. McCambridge