Professor Kristi Perryman and U of A Students Present at Association for Play Therapy Conference

Oct 31, 2019 | Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Kristi Perryman, an assistant professor and director of the University of Arkansas Office of Play Therapy Research and Training, recently traveled to Dallas with two doctoral students and a May graduate to present at the annual Association for Play Therapy Conference.

Perryman also co-presented with her colleague Mary Ann Peabody, social and behavioral sciences department chair the University of Southern Maine. The half-day presentation was titled, “Strengthening the school-based play therapist pipeline: Win-Win!” and focused on evidenced-based approaches to conducting child-centered play therapy in schools.

Licensed mental health professionals use play therapeutically to help their clients, especially children, to describe and manage their behaviors and mental health problems.

Perryman used data from research she and students conducted in Northwest Arkansas schools using the Primary Project protocol.  In this research, masters level counseling students conduct play therapy sessions with elementary students who are identified as at-risk.

Perryman co-presented on a poster with counseling doctoral students Julia Conroy and Brittany Massengale as well as recent U of A graduate, Cameron Houin. The presentation revolved around play therapist in training skills and values development and was based on data collected in the Introduction to Play Therapy course, offered each spring in the U of A counseling program. The counseling program offers the needed coursework to become a registered play therapist, which includes hosting an annual conference each June.

“The Association for Play Therapy conference was an incredible opportunity for me to grow in my skills and knowledge as a student, developing educator, researcher, and practicing clinician,” said Conroy. “Some of my favorite presentations were on the neurobiological implications of play, which aligns with my research interests.”

Conroy said because the play therapy field emphasizes the role of professional values in ethical grounding, they wanted to explore the development of those values in students to give instructors direction in how to cultivate it in their own classrooms.

Conroy said the experience of attending the annual conference had a huge impact on her personally and professionally. She noted that during the poster co-presentation, one of the most influential play therapists in the country, Garry Landreth, stopped by to chat about their research.

tudents with Garry Landreth

Students with Garry Landreth

“My heart was racing as I explained our results to him,” she said. “I soon realized there was no need for my nervousness. He was so encouraging for us to continue this line of research, which is minimal in existing literature. He advised us with additional areas of exploration and encouraged us to extend our results into a workshop session at future conferences.

“The professional and even personal encouragement Dr. Landreth gave me was such an impactful moment for me as a doctoral student. It was a special moment that I know I will continue to value as I continue to develop as a professional.”

Six masters counseling students working toward their play therapy certification attended the conference, serving as volunteers.

Master’s students Kailey Broaddrick, Bailey Amis, Colten Johnson, Hailey Thomas, Cat Stephenson, Grace Anderson and Vinci Chan volunteered to be a part of the conference.

“Volunteering was a such a great way for me to attend the conference and I was able to go to workshops every day and network with other therapists and school counselors from all over the country,” Chan said. “I gained a wealth of information and feel more equipped and prepared to start my practicum and internship.”

Anderson added, “Getting the opportunity to volunteer and learn at the Association for Play Therapy conference was one of the best academic experiences I’ve had. I enjoyed hearing a range of topics related to play therapy from play therapist at the top of their field while assisting them with their workshops. This is a one-of-a-kind experience for students who want to learn about specialized play therapy techniques and methods and volunteering helps keep it affordable. Can’t wait for next year.”