Play therapy institute approved

Pictured, from left, are: Dr. Maralyn Sommer, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs; Dr. Glen Jones, Henderson president; Center Director Dr. Franc Hudspeth; and Dr. Judy Harrison, dean of Teachers College, Henderson.

The Institute for Play Therapy at Henderson State University has earned designation as an Approved Center of Play Therapy Education by the Association for Play Therapy (APT).

With this designation, Henderson will offer play therapy graduate and supervisor training courses in addition to generating publications and presentations to benefit students, faculty and practitioners. These programs may be applied to satisfy state licensing requirements and to earn the Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and Supervisor (RPT-S) credentials conferred by APT.

The center was launched by its director, Dr. Franc Hudspeth, assistant professor of counselor education at Henderson. It is the first and only Approved Play Therapy Education Center in Arkansas.

“Our goal is multifocal: To be visual and vocal advocates of play therapy in Arkansas; to provide play therapy education and supervision; and to engage in research and publications that in turn supports the growing evidence of the value of play therapy,” said Hudspeth. APT defines play therapy as “the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development,” according to Hudspeth.

“We are born with the instinct to play,” he said. “However, play is not random. It is not meaningless. It is the natural language of children. It provides the stage for exploration, growth, learning, and resolution. Through play therapy and with a trained play therapist, children engage in a naturalistic process to overcome difficulties.

Dr. Judy Harrison, dean of Teachers College Henderson, said, “I am very pleased that Dr. Hudspeth initiated the approval process designating Henderson as an official play therapy center. Approval of the center is the first step in achieving a long-term goal of developing a play therapy clinic that will provide opportunities for play therapy practicum. In the near future, the Counselor Education Department plans to submit a request to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to offer a graduate certificate in Play Therapy.”

APT commended Henderson’s establishment of the program. “Because the rapidly increasing use of play therapy is also boosting demand for more university play therapy programs, APT applauds Harrison for approving the establishment of the Center,” said APT CEO Bill Burns. “We are confident that, under the leadership of Dr. Hudspeth, it will significantly advance our growing field and serve those who counsel clients, particularly children, in schools, public agencies, private practices, and other venues.”

Dr. Maralyn Sommer, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Henderson, said, “I think this is an area of counseling/therapy that will be even more critical in the future if society continues down our current path of violence and abuse. I’m proud that we have this program and congratulate Dr. Hudspeth for his foresight in seeing that we took the necessary steps to make it happen.”

APT, a national professional society, estimates that play therapy is routinely utilized by thousands of licensed psychologists, social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists within and outside of the United States. Noting membership has doubled during the last decade, Burns reports that nearly 16 percent of accredited universities now offer some combination of play therapy graduate instruction and supervised play therapy experiences.

Hudspeth can be contacted by emailing To learn more about Teachers College Henderson, please go to