Ever since I can remember I have relished in the experience of being, interacting and playing with children. I myself was a young child when I’d care for the younger offspring of my parents’ friends, taking special delight in the way they would observe and absorb the world around them through their senses. Time went on, I got older, and I continued to seek out opportunities to work with and learn from the miracle of a child’s experience. I finished high school and started university as a pre-med, following the path that I’d been told was right for me. I thought perhaps being a pediatrician would fulfill my dream of working with children. Just a few 8 am organic chemistry and physics classes at UC Berkeley quickly taught me that, while I still yearned to help kids, I was not cut out for the intensity and competitiveness of the medical field. Then I took my first psychology course, and that was it. I knew that I had found my path: I wanted to connect with and get through to children by exploring their brains, emotions and behaviors on a deeper level.
Having come from a home that could be described as anything but peaceful, I felt I had an understanding, perhaps even a deeper sense of compassion for children who hadn’t received the validation and support needed to build healthy emotions and self esteem. Over the next ten years, I explored many ways of being with kids, as a nanny, in camps for girls with ADHD, in research examining how kids form memories when they are under stress, in classrooms, in nature, in clinics and beyond. I hoped that my presence, support and guidance would be a medium through which they could feel how magnificent each of them truly was.
I went on and finished my undergrad and then obtained my masters degree in Psychology. While none of the institutions I attended had exactly what I was looking for, I took every child development and psychology class I could, learning as much as possible for me about the ways children perceive and process the world. After finishing graduate school, I needed an opportunity of my own to take in the world, through nature, movement, friendships and play. I moved to Italy and worked as an English teacher for several years, having an unforgettable experience and helping me learn about myself and my universe in entirely new ways. It was amazing. I knew I needed to be there and I knew the exact moment that I needed to come back to the States. I was ready and eager to take the culmination of everything I’d learned in my life thus far, in school and out, and pour it into a career that would be a journey of growth for both myself and the people I’d be helping.
I don’t know exactly how I discovered the work of Drs. Byron and Carol Norton. Through some random Google search on play therapy, I suppose. But it was a search that has changed my life and put me in exactly the right place doing exactly the work I’d been looking for all these years. Through my training and work with the Nortons, I have been able to witness over and over again the ways that children know, really know, exactly what they need to heal from pain and trauma. It simply takes a medium of safety and nurturing, and someone who is willing to speak the language of play, for them to go into their pain and re-structure their relationship to it. Play therapy gives children an opportunity to separate themselves from their perpetrators and their pain and to find themselves again. In the playroom, they are allowed to be anyone and anything they need to be because we play therapists trust that healing happens when you are allowed to show up as your fullest self.