CARE clinic expanding to help children

The University’s newest construction project is set to break ground the first of March, yet few students may notice the transformation at the corner of campus. A final round of bidding remains before the Graduate Counseling Program begins work on a new building for the CARE Clinic.

“The contractor is saying that once we break ground, he can complete the project in its entirety in four months,” said John Carmack, the graduate counseling program director. “We anticipate being in this building operational by next fall, maybe mid-summer.”

Designed by architect Matt Pearson and contracted by Nabholz, the $400,000 building will be dedicated to the expansion of the child play therapy program. The graduate counseling program has taught on the subject before but plans to offer full certification so that graduates can become licensed play therapists.

Carmack said KC Play Therapy Institute in Kansas City, Mo., is currently the nearest institute offering this certification. Many of the University’s graduate students attend KC Play to receive the license.

On top of that, Carmack said many graduates from the marriage and family track found themselves placed in school settings. Their feedback asked the University to provide more training for working with children and adolescents.

As a response, the program hired Charles Romig, professor of counselor education, to help develop a play therapy program. Romig said as the curriculum developed and a room in the current CARE Clinic was dedicated to play therapy, interest grew.

“There’s just a mental health culture [here] that recognizes that play therapy is valuable, so how do we provide high quality play therapy training?” he asked.

Nicholas Cornett, assistant professor of counselor education and graduate from University of North Texas Center for Play Therapy, added that parents and families are more concerned about their children and more willing to seek help for them.

“Having one playroom here in our clinic… that room’s constantly booked,” he said. “It just seems like if we build it, they’ll come. It’s just a high need and a highly motivated population.”

The new building will hold two playrooms, two sand tray rooms, a consultation room, an observation room, a reception area, file room and waiting area.

The two designated playrooms will be filled wall to wall with toys.

“The toys that are chosen for the play rooms are meant to facilitate as much self-expression as possible,” Cornett said. “There’s a saying that ‘toys are selected, not collected.’ We don’t want to have just any toy in there. We want toys that hopefully encourage a child to express themselves as fully as possible.”

Cornett said the types of toys include:

Artistic—paints, easels, crafts, pencils and crayons
Active/Aggressive—handcuffs, ropes, masks, dart guns and foam swords
Nurturing—baby dolls, bottles, dress-up clothes and medical kits
Realistic—phones, play kitchen and play foods

Likewise, the sand tray rooms provide another medium of self-expression. The sand tray will sit on a cart in the middle of the room and the walls will be covered in shelves full of one to four inch figurines also representing different categories. The children—or in some cases the adolescents or adults—are given a prompt and asked to choose the figurines. Afterward, they process what they made and why they decided to use each figurine.

Justin Phillips, executive director of the CARE Clinic, said each of the four rooms will be equipped with a camera system, allowing students and supervisors to watch live or recorded therapy sessions in the observation room.

“[This building is] not only providing services for the community, but also providing training for the students who want to specialize in play therapy,” he said.

Carmack added, “It’s going to be state-of-the-art training. We will be very proud to have this on our campus. We’re hoping to… try to become a primary institution that when play therapy is thought of, we are going to be up there on that list.”