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Confessions of a Play Therapist Who Had Forgotten — A Conference Review

img_7413By Annabella Hagen, LCSW, RPT-S

I knew Garry Landreth was an amazing child psychologist. I had heard his workshops at the International APT conferences several times and was also at the UAPT conference 8 years ago. I had read his books, own, and have watched his most popular videos. As a play therapist working with parents I used his CPR-Training manual for several years. I had always called myself a client-centered therapist.

However, as I listened to Garry during his conference “The Art of the Relationship in Play Therapy: Deeper Issues,” I became aware I had forgotten some essentials!

During the conference, I gained new insights and his inspiring words moved me to make changes in my practice. Here are a few instances of what stood out to me the most:

He talked about the Grand Canyon and the vastness of it. He compared that with the vastness of the “person of the child.” He reminded us how grand and vast the person in my office is, and also just like the Grand Canyon is complex, the person (child, adolescent, or adult) will be too. As therapists we truly need to be in the moment with our clients, so they know that we hear, understand, and care about them. I knew this, but Garry’s words touched my soul.

“Facts about the child do not tell very much about the person of the child.” “History is not destiny.” “Perception is the basis of reality.” Yes! It’s about the process and being there for the person. He reminded us that we must be able to see the “child against the tree” and “trust what we take in with our eyes.” The principles that he taught are not just for the therapy room. They are to be lived every day. Garry’s words were uplifting as he reminded me of universal truths.

“The therapeutic process cannot be rushed.” I love his metaphors and stories. For example, he reminded us about the bean seed and how fragile it is as it begins to grow. “All we need to do is to provide the right conditions. That’s all we can do. If we try to straighten it, it will break.” How about Clark Kent, Superman and the telephone booth? “The telephone booth never asked him, ‘Why are you here?’ We need to be the telephone booth for our clients.”

Overall, this was the best UAPT Conference I’ve ever attended. I appreciate Garry for sharing some of his wisdom with us. Garry is a person-centered human being wherever he goes. He is a great example of living what you teach!

If you weren’t able to attend the conference and don’t own his book “Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship,” I highly recommend it. It is a must read for every play therapist.

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