2013-07-11 / News

Toys play their role in new therapist’s practice


Therapist Katherine Arkell is shown with the toys she utilizes as part of her treatment process with children. 
Photo by Erin McGrath Therapist Katherine Arkell is shown with the toys she utilizes as part of her treatment process with children. Photo by Erin McGrath The front room of Katherine Arkell’s therapy office isn’t like most.

Instead of groups of comfortable couches, or that iconic brown-leather chaise lounge, there are plastic dragons, stuffed animals, toy fire trucks and a fully-stocked Fischer Price play kitchen.

The newest licensed social worker in town, Arkell is also a registered play therapist supervisor, and has recently opened up a new private practice on State Street near the Center Road intersection.

“Who doesn’t like to play? It relaxes people and the focus is taken off the child and the issue, and put into a realm they are comfortable with,” Arkell said about the type of therapy she specializes in. “Therapy doesn’t have to be drudgery. We laugh and play and we’re healing as well. It is purposeful play. It’s not just random. My toys are selected with certain intent in mind.”

According to the Association for Play Therapy, the world-wide organization that Arkell is accredited through, play therapy is a “structured, theoretically based approach” to therapy that builds on the normal learning and communication processes of children. Therapists use play to help children express what is troubling them when verbal language fails.

In her office, Arkell said, the children lead the therapy session.

“Sometimes I’ll have an activity planned that is centered on what we are working on, like social skills or reducing anxiety,” she said. “It could be about feelings identification, but they are in charge. My only rule in the play room is that no one gets hurt. When a child goes in there, it is their time, it is all about them, and they get to decide what they want to do.”

Arkell knew at a young age she wanted to work with children, but she said her life path didn’t take her directly to the world of social work and therapy. She married young and traveled as a military wife for years before finally settling in Arkansas.

Between two sons and moving around with her now ex-husband’s job, it took Arkell 14 years to finish her undergraduate degree from Wayland Baptist University. It took her just two to complete her master’s in social work at Valdosta State University in Georgia.

“Once I had gotten into that program, I knew I had found my calling,” she said. And after working for years in community and mental health, Arkell opened up her own private practice in Arkansas.

She made the move to Saginaw after getting engaged to a local man this past year, she said. And after a lifetime as a gypsy, this is now home base.

“I’d like to grow a practice here,” Arkell said. “I’d like to grow this building and have this whole bottom floor be mental health. I dream really big and shoot for the stars.”

For more information, visit www.kdaplay.com.

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