When kids are playing, they aren’t just playing. They’re learning —learning how to interact with the world and learning appropriate social skills.
Playing can also help children work through what’s going on in their lives — things they may not be able to talk about.
Because of this, there’s a line of work for what’s referred to as play therapists. These professionals assess and understand children’s play while also helping them cope.
Miquetta White is one such professional.
White is a two-time Newman graduate — she received a bachelor’s degree in counseling in 2010 and a Master of Social Work in 2015 — and a clinical social worker. In 2018, she got her clinical licensure in play therapy as well.
Today, White uses her expertise to help students in the Bryant Opportunity Academy USD 259, where she works as a social worker. She recently received a $2,000 Education EDGE/Wesley Medical Center EVERFI grant to expand on the therapeutic play room she’s created in the school.
“We’ve been trying things here and there, and they’ve been successful so far,” she said. “I think kids really enjoy being able to play and not be ashamed about it.”
Part of the solution
White shared that a lot of children in the school have experienced trauma, and play therapy is beneficial in helping them work through it.
Having a separate therapeutic play room in the school is advantageous, but White hopes to use the grant to incorporate some of the aspects of her room into other classrooms within the school.
For example, one part of her therapeutic play room is “nurturing,” with toys like dolls and stuffed animals. White explained that if she or another teacher notices a child spending a lot of time in that area, it could signal they need more care or attention and are working through that.
She also hopes the interventions she’s incorporating into the school will help teachers form positive relationships with their students. That goes for her as well.
“I hope that when kids get older, they’re like, ‘Ms. White was a good person to me,’ and they had a strong relationship with me and feel good about having a positive connection to something in elementary school,” White said. “Because I feel like when I think of my childhood, I think of the strong adults I had in my life at that time.”
White believes that counseling and social work is like planting a seed. Sometimes you see it grow, and sometimes you don’t. But even if she doesn’t get to witness a seed grow, hopefully others are there to water it.
“That’s why I do what I do,” she said.
Earn a social work degree
Social workers build their identities in order to honor and support people and communities and work to improve conditions in the world around us.