Play Therapy Comes to FMPSD
“It is a happy talent to know how to play,” famous American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. The importance of play for children is not debatable, and Fort McMurray Public School District (FMSPD) is cognizant of this reality. This is why we have introduced play therapy for young students this year to enhance our mental health programming.
Play Therapy is an evidenced-based therapy, which is most useful for children ages 2-12. It uses play and the powers of play to help children identify and work through personal or family problems. These can include but are not limited to anger, anxiety, depression, family dynamics, friendship dynamics, school dynamics, illness or injury, separation or divorce, and/or trauma. Play Therapy allows children to “play things out” just like Talk Therapy allows adults to “talk things out.” Play Therapists utilize toys, games, art, and music to help children express themselves. Thus, play becomes the language and the toys become the words.
Chelsea Griffin is our District Play Therapist. She is a Certified Play Therapist (CPT), Registered Play Therapist (RPT), and Registered Social Worker (RSW) with a Masters in Social Work. She joined FMPSD last September, but has been in the field for the last 10 years – and is one of only 29 certified/registered play therapists in Alberta. She explains more about play therapy.
“Play is an important part of child development as it allows children to learn about themselves and the world around them. It contributes to the development of a variety of skills including physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. Play Therapy helps children process things in a way that developmentally makes sense to them using the objects they can relate to. And, allows children to have choice and control, which is important in the therapeutic process,” Griffin explains.
“My job as the District Play Therapist includes providing one on one support to our elementary students and their families, as well as, group support. It includes collaboration with teachers, schools, and the community if necessary,” she adds.
Griffin, who works with about 60 children annually, and is running five parent groups, credits working with “wonderful leadership including Shannon Noble, FMPSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Inclusive Education and Mellanie Fraser, Mental Health Coordinator,” who help her create better mental health supports for students.
“We are all strong advocates for providing and prioritizing mental health supports for our students. The District ensured I was able to purchase all of the necessary toys and materials required for my office to become the best therapeutic space possible. I chose to come to FMPSD as they are “Doing What’s Best for Kids” and their mental health. FMPSD allows children to learn the necessary tools to help them become successful as they grow up,” Griffin comments.
“I am very proud of the supports we are able to give our FMPSD families. Not only is Chelsea supporting these children, she is supporting their parents, teachers, and counsellors. She is able to provide a full wrap-around service where she is able to not only understand what the child really needs, she is able to conceptualize a plan to best support these families in their home lives and their schools,” notes Mellanie Fraser, FMPSD’s Mental Health Coordinator.
A “happy talent,” as we foster play and help provide mental health supports to our students.
Doing What’s Best for Kids. For more information on any of our 16 schools, visit: fmpsdschools.ca. For real time updates: follow us on Twitter: @FMPSD @DougNicholls2 and like us on Facebook: Fort McMurray Public School District. We are also on Instagram @FMPSD.
Chelsea Griffin helps students in her office at Christina Gordon Public School. Photos by Ashley Barrington, FMPSD