The Value of Playing
Professors Address the Growing Interest in Play Therapy at JBU
By Nikki Rader
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The ‘bop bag’ sits in the corner of the room. Its name is fitting, because children who play with it usually end up hitting it. Normally, hitting objects is discouraged, but in the play therapy room where various toys fill the shelves and kids are encouraged to play, hitting the bop bag is acceptable. In fact, the bop bag, along with every other toy in the play therapy room, is strategic and meant to communicate basic human emotions—mad, sad, glad, and afraid—through playing.
Play therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to help children express their emotions or problems by using what comes more naturally to them: playing.
Children usually begin playing even before they speak, often creating stories that are indicative of their lives or using toys to express emotions.
Divorce, the death of a family member, trauma, or developmental disabilities are uncontrollable forces that a child must somehow maneuver without the cognitive developmental skills of an adult. Playing is a natural outlet of expression.
“Play is the language of children,” said Dr. Charles Romig, professor of counseling at John Brown University. “Toys are the words they use to communicate to us.”
When Dr. Romig came to JBU from Wichita State University in 2008, he began to introduce play therapy to graduate counseling students, first through continuing education seminars and later with a Graduate Certificate in Play Therapy and an optional play therapy specialization.
As interest developed in JBU’s graduate counseling department, Dr. Nick Cornett was studying in the doctoral program at the University of North Texas, known internationally for its doctoral level instruction in Play Therapy. While in Texas, Nick developed expertise in the field of Play Therapy and produced a number of scholarly presentations on the topic. While a graduate teaching assistant, he gained experience as a classroom instructor and guest lecturer. He also provided play therapy services in local schools to children identified as being “at-risk” by the child’s parent or classroom teacher. Nick was developing a reputation as a budding scholar in the relatively young field of play therapy.
As a former undergraduate and graduate student of JBU, Dr. Cornett jumped at the opportunity to become a full-time faculty for JBU’s graduate counseling department. “I eagerly applied for it,” Cornett recalls now. “It was a ‘dream job’ for me that would provide an opportunity to return to a university and program that had so meaningfully and formatively impacted my life.” Cornett was hired and began teaching in Fall 2012. His preparation and passion exactly match the vision and goals of the department.
With the experience and expertise brought to JBU by Drs. Romig and Cornett, JBU’s Play Therapy training will continue to positively impact the lives of the students who are trained and the children and families with whom they work.
Nikki Rader is the graduate counseling recruiter for the Graduate Counseling Program