Reflections on a Play Therapy Conference

Each year I look forward, maybe even moreso than Christmas, to the Association for Play Therapy's annual conference, the world's largest gathering of play therapists. This time the conference was held in my home state of Kentucky. (Actually, it's a little like Christmas as you'll see in a later post.)

One of those people:

my friend Jennifer whom I

met in grad school

And each year when I return home I am quite emotional. Why? Because once a year I see people who have had such a tremendous influence on me professionally, but even more importantly, personally. I feel so grateful they are a part of my life's story, and I am sad that I don't get to spend time with them more often. I also feel such a sense of community knowing that I am with hundreds of people who value play and the needs of children. Anyone who's ever been on a true retreat experience knows how bittersweet its ending can be. You're on an emotional high of some sort but sad to see the process end.

On my last evening there, I ate dinner with 6 other play therapists. We were male and female, gay and straight, married and single, parents and non-parents, older and younger, academics and non-academics, well-known in the field of play therapy and not so well-known, and we come from a variety of theoretical orientations in our treatment of clients. Some of these beautiful people already knew me and some didn't. At the end of the meal (and I think one could only do this in a gathering of play therapists), one of them asked us to each share one thing we learned about someone at the table and one thing we learned at the conference. I just love stuff like that!

I shared about a supervision workshop I attended wherein one of the activities was to choose a stone to symbolize a relationship we have had with a supervisor and then share in a small group an important quality that supervisor had. Immediately, I thought of a supervisor who gave me the freedom to be ME during I time when I was trying to fit within a box that I thought others expected me to fit in. This freedom and acceptance of the

imperfect me

 allowed me to take risks, and thus grow/change as a play therapist and as a person. And this freedom and acceptance has a calming nature to it such as the blue color of my stone.

A personal struggle throughout my life is my tendency to be shy and introverted. Most of the time this is no longer a problem for me. But I am aware when I am at a large gathering such as this one where there are play therapists who have more experience/publications/presentations/

money/etc. than me, I find I may start to compare myself to these people. Then the shy, little Jodi comes out and I feel less than. So I push through it because I remind myself--how can I compare myself with all these various people when the stories of our lives have taken such different paths? I also remind myself that I AM ENOUGH.  I force myself to sit next to someone more well-known in the field or volunteer a comment or question in a workshop discussion. I don't have to do this, but I've learned that in doing so, I might learn something new from that well-known person or experience him or her in a new way. By commenting, others may learn from me or be appreciative that I asked the question they were afraid to ask.

So there are other reasons I am emotional at the end of the conference and feel wiped out. All that reflecting and pushing through means I need a day or two to rest, play, and decompress as you'll see in my next post.