State-of-the-art play therapy lab offers counseling students unique hands-on experience

Jack scanned the shelves, glancing first at the puppets, then to the line of dinosaurs and down to the cars before his gaze settled on a school bus. Behind him, Kathryn patiently sat on the edge of the roadway-themed play mat, and responded as he detailed his strategy in both selection and now placement.

Terry Christensen, professor of counseling and a licensed professional counselor, watched their exchange – their first play therapy session together – on a video monitor from an adjacent observation room.

“Excellent attention to emotion there,” she said, leaning into a microphone to record her thoughts so Kathryn could review later. “I see the evolution in your skills, for sure.”

This is Regis’ state-of-the-art Child and Adolescent Play Therapy Lab where students in the Division of Counseling and Family Therapy get hands-on experience with children in a simulated, professional environment.

Regis has a reputation as a leader in preparing mental health professionals to employ play therapy, a form of counseling increasingly used to help children express themselves.

“Playing is how children communicate, just as adults express themselves with words,” Christensen said.

Even more distinctive: Regis’ lab is the only one of its kind in Colorado with the prestigious Approved Center of Play Therapy Education designation from the Association for Play Therapy.

The lab has proven an invaluable resource and enabled countless students to successfully make the transition to clinical practice, Christensen said.

“This is a game changer,” she said, nodding toward the lab. “This resource gives our students a unique opportunity to hone their skills and ultimately, to serve their community – and society as a whole – that much more effectively.”

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