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Self-Care for Play Therapists

pam1By: Pam Dyson, MA, LPC, RPT, Founder and Director of the St. Louis Center for Play Therapy Training.

We hear so much about the importance of self-care to prevent burnout.  We’re encouraged to seek supervision or consultation, participate in professional development, set boundaries with clients and take vacations. We know what we need to do yet often fail to comply consistently because of lack of time, money, or motivation.

I’ve learned that in order to be the best play therapist I can be, in addition to the afore mentioned items, I need to incorporate self-care strategies into my life on a daily or weekly basis that are simple and connected to my five senses. They’re things that bring a smile to my face and peace to my life.

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Scented candles and room and linen sprays appeal to my sense of smell and rubbing scented lotion on my hands appeals to my sense of touch. I have a particular fondness for anything lavender as I find it to be very calming.
Small pieces of chocolate that I slowly nibble and savor satisfy my sense of smell and taste.

Listening to music brings a smile to my face and leaves me feeling invigorated. Pandora radio is a free app and I can pick the style of music I want to hear.

Cotton socks make me feel good all over. I buy them by the bundle so I always have a new pair to grab after a particularly difficult day.  A couple of times a month, when I get home from work, I prop up my feet, pull on a new pair of socks and relax.  Just seeing them in my sock drawer is comforting to me. If you know a fellow play therapist who could use a little pampering send them a new pair of socks with instructions to put them on after a challenging day. Ask that they pay it forward by sending a pair to another therapist.

The most important way I nurture myself is to stay connected to my inner child.  I keep a favorite childhood photo on my desk.  When feeling overwhelmed I look at the photo and wonder what little girl Pam would say to big girl Pam. She often reminds me to stop and play. Whether it’s running my hands though the sand tray, scribbling with a marker or blowing bubbles I always feel better when I take her advice.

Are you nurturing and caring for yourself?  What strategies are you using? If you’re not yet incorporating self-care into your day or week I challenge you to find five things, one for each of your senses, that appeal to your senses and will help you feel nurtured, cared for and prized.

Pam Dyson
Pam Dyson, MA, LPC, RPT, is a child development expert, parenting coach, licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor and registered play therapist. In addition to her private practice in Ballwin, MO, she serves as a mental health consultant, provides licensure supervision and appears regularly on KMOV’s Great Day St. Louis.
As the founder and director of the St. Louis Center for Play Therapy Training, Pam is a much sought after trainer, facilitating play therapy workshops across the U.S.  As an adjunct professor she teaches a graduate course in play therapy at Lindenwood University. She is a graduate of the 2012 Leadership Academy Class of the Association for Play Therapy (APT) and a member of the 2013 Leadership Academy Committee.  Pam most recentlyserved as a member of the APT TechnologyTask Force, exploring applications of emerging technologies in play therapy instruction, practice and supervision.