Play Therapy Institute: Learning by Healing

Getting to know Malvona Ross-Sohl

Malvona Ross-Sohl, a Play Therapy graduate intern at Family Service of Roanoke Valley, earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Radford University. She is now participating in the Play Therapy Institute at Family Service to complete the Masters in Social Work program at Virginia Commonwealth University. She joined Family Service in August 2016, and her supervisor is The Rev. Melissa Hays-Smith, LCSW, RPT-S.

Ross-Sohl grew up in a home where she witnessed domestic violence and tragically lost her mother at a young age. Now a wife and mother herself, Ross-Sohl has made a career of helping others and learning more about the cycle of domestic violence and how it impacts communities and families.

The Counseling intern has worked at TAP’s Sabrina’s Place and as a case manager at Blue Ridge Behavioral Health. She is currently working as Lead Case Manager for the TAP YALE (Young Adult Life Enhancement) program for youth 14-19 years old in addition to going to school.

She said she is pursuing social work because she thinks there is a great deal of impact she can have on families in need.

"The whole experience I am gaining at Family Service is very new, because it’s younger kids than I’ve worked with. I like the idea of Play Therapy. It’s very non-directive, and I like that aspect of it–just letting them be who they are in that space," she said.

The children who seek Play Therapy services at Family Service have often suffered the most extreme life circumstances–poverty, abuse, neglect, and violence in their home. Seeing how her supervisor Hays-Smith and other therapists at Family Service work with the kids lets Ross-Sohl know she’s made the right choice.

She said the ongoing therapeutic relationship developed through counseling provides an opportunity to intervene in a child’s life early and hopefully stop the cycle of abuse.

Ross-Sohl is grateful she was able to do that for herself and is hopeful her career in social work will allow her to help other kids escape from a lifetime of abuse and emotional wounds.

"I want to get a very diverse experience and I think I’m doing that," she said. "I also want to make the most impact that I can. I don’t want to just be comfortable. I want to make an impact on the people I work with."

A Closer Look at Play Therapy Institute 

Play Therapy Counseling at Family Service is a robust program. Seven full-time and part-time counselors focus specifically on treating the youngest children in our community. With three rooms dedicated to Play Therapy, and a reputation for excellence, Family Service wanted to establish the Play Therapy Institute. The institute allows the agency to increase the counseling services available for traumatized children in our community, and address the waiting list for Play Therapy–which is consistently over 20 for children ages 2-12.

With the support of the Virginia Department of Social Services through the Victims of Crime Act funding, Family Service was able to see this dream come true. Ross-Sohl joins Family Service along with two other Masters level interns–Alex Matthews and Ashley Carr–to enhance the services available and reduce the number of children on the waiting list for Play Therapy,

Specifically for children who have suffered abuse or neglect,

Family Service is able to offer counseling free of charge. 

Click  for more information.