Rosie Newman, MAP class of 2010, was elected president of the Washington State Association for Play Therapy (WAAPT). Newman is a child and family therapist at Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation.
“I was always interested in the phenomenological movement,” Newman said recently from her office in Federal Way. “That’s what brought me to Seattle University. I really didn’t know about play therapy until a practicum opened up at Valley Cities.”
Newman came to Seattle with an undergraduate psychology degree from Richmond University in London, England. After working on a crisis line in the Bay Area, she travelled to India to work with autistic children before beginning her MAP studies. A chance opening for a practicum in play therapy brought Newman to Valley Cities under the supervision of then WAAPT president, Greg Oleson, LMFT, CMHS, RPT-S. She built on that experience and now is a family and child therapist working mainly with children under the age of 12 and their families.
Most of Valley Cities clients are referred by school counselors, primary physicians, and state social workers. Many of the children have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Some have attention deficit disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The play therapy room at Valley Cities is filled with many of the toys seen in a typical play room: dollhouse, building blocks, dolls, plastic animals and people, doctor kits, puppets, and sand box. In the hands of a play therapist, these toys become tools that validate children’s experiences. They provide a means to enable the children to express themselves and eventually to cope with their distress.
“I work first with the child alone and gain trust and confidence,” Newman said. “I meet separately with the parents to maximize the benefits of the therapy and later with the child and parents together.”
In Washington state, play therapy is gradually gaining a foothold among child and family therapists. Only 65 individuals are currently registered play therapists here compared to more than 580 in Texas. As head of the state association, Newman wants to increase awareness among practitioners of the value of play therapy in the child-family-therapist relationship.
“Play therapy is just beginning to be recognized here as a valuable approach when working with children,” Newman said. “My job with the association is to increase awareness of this important technique to help children in critical situations.”