Play Therapy Institute: Learning by Healing

Getting to know Alex Matthews

Alex Matthews, a Play Therapy graduate intern at Family Service of Roanoke Valley, earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Virginia Tech. She is now participating in the Play Therapy Institute at Family Service to complete the Masters of Counseling program at Virginia Tech. She joined Family Service in August 2016, and her supervisor is Jennifer Nolley.

Matthews has experience working as a research assistant for child study center for a professor known worldwide for his research in oppositional defiance disorder and phobias. She also worked as a preschool teacher and feels like there were kids who fell through the cracks.

"I have always been interested in psychology-related field. I was drawn to counseling because as a counselor we look at the whole person rather than seeing them as a diagnosis," she said.

The Counseling intern said she got to choose between a school placement or a community-based placement for her internship. She chose a community-based placement because she wanted the one-on-one therapeutic time with children and she really felt like she could make a difference.

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.

Matthews said she became interested in Play Therapy in Theories and Techniques class.

"I know kids can’t always verbally express themselves," she said.

Seeing how her supervisor Nolley and other therapists at Family Service work with the kids lets Matthews feels like Family Service is the right place for her to learn more in her field and make a difference for kids in our community.

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. Matthews joins Family Service along with two other Masters level interns–Malvona Ross-Sohland 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.