#NationalSchoolCounselingWeek Hightlight: Play Therapy in our Schools


Dawn Whiteside M.Ed, LPC, Registered Play Therapist is a Counseling Source school counselor practicing at Circleville Elementary School.

National School Counseling Week this year falls February 3rd through 7th and celebrates the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems.

This year’s celebratory theme is “Helping Build Better Humans,” and as a part of that theme we caught up with Counseling Source counselor Dawn Whiteside M.Ed, LPC, Registered Play Therapist who gave us some insight on how a technique called play therapy is helping Circleville Elementary School build better humans.

“Play Therapy is working with kids through how they communicate,” said Whiteside. “For them, their first language is play so its a way that we can communicate with them through toys, art, and other manipulatives. Even before they can learn to speak they are playing. We know that children usually lag behind in their cognitive development, but play is how they learn to communicate and toys are the means by which children express themselves first. They will use figurines in how they act out things from school and home. It is always fascinating to see how they interact and what they use to communicate.”

To most, Play Therapy seems kind of primitive says Whiteside, but to be certified to implement this counseling strategy to get kids to open up about their feelings takes a lot of extra work.

“To become a registered play therapist you need an additional 150 hours of training, said Whiteside. “You then have to obtain continuing education hours annually to keep the credentialing.”

In house, while Circleville City employs counselors that utilize this technique Whiteside is the only registered play therapist of our counseling staff at Circleville City Schools and through The Counseling Source, LLC.

When a child plays, they express thoughts and feelings that otherwise would remain hidden according to the Association of Play Therapists. Play Therapy can be a powerful tool for expressing a child’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional challenges. Simply put, licensed clinical practitioners use this strategy to help kids manage their world.

In the video below meet Andrew in the satirical parent-kid skit. Andrew portrays an atypical student response to the parent age-old question of “how was your day?” This serves as a great contrast to applicable work of licensed professionals like Dawn who are able to use play therapy to get kids to speak about their emotions, regulate themselves, and interact with others.

As a part of National School Counseling Week we would like to thank Dawn Whiteside and our entire team of school counselors for all they work they do each and every day building strong connections with our students and the expertise they bring to student health and wellness!