Camelot Education’s Expressive Therapists Gather to Experience Play Therapy Themselves
Camelot Education’s excel at supporting diverse learners by providing them a therapeutic environment with a rigorous educational experience. This programming results in improved academic, social-emotional, and life outcomes.
One area of expertise used at these schools is expressive therapies, in which art therapy, music therapy, and play techniques allow kids to express themselves. Recently, therapists from Camelot’s therapeutic day schools in Illinois gathered for a “play date” of their own, an opportunity for them to experience the impact of expressive therapy first-hand.
“The whole training is exploratory,” explained Lindsay Rossmiller, Camelot’s head of expressive therapies, now in her sixth year with Camelot Education and working on her Master’s degree thesis in Music Therapy. “The point is for therapists to experience the practice from the inside out. Working with the creative health of the child requires working with the creative health of the therapists as well. So, we engaged in music making, art making, journaling, and then more traditional discussion.”
Expressive therapists share the belief that through creative expression and the tapping of the imagination, individuals can examine their feelings, emotions, and thought process. Rossmiller said the training event was all about how to use play to get students to their goals and how to identify which expressive therapy works best for a particular situation.
“Someone who works as an art therapist might be on the lookout for a student who’s using his pencil really intensely so she can then use techniques that will allow that student to expand that artistic impulse toward a social/emotional goal,” she said. “We talked about taking movement breaks and sensory breaks and the way that our sensory perceptions are based on what we believe about the world. So our goal as therapists is to create an environment in which our students feel the world is a safe, nurturing place that has space for them.”
As a relatively new member of the expressive therapies team, this was Camelot’s Art Therapist, Holly Babcock’s, first time participating in the training, “I felt uplifted and inspired by being surrounded by the many Camelot professionals who work so hard to enrich the quality of our student’s day-to-day experiences,” she said. “The many ways that we, as a team, creatively engage with our students offers a connection that is unique, nurturing, and full of opportunities for growth. Our creative language binds us together and offers empathetic understanding.”
The expressive therapy techniques Camelot’s therapeutic day schools use are the same for both students on the autism spectrum and those in need of social-emotional development. Both situations call for adhering to regular schedules and sometimes intensive and specific sensory needs.
“Maybe a student is tactile defensive and doesn’t want to be touched, so we will experiment with more appropriate sensory items for them to explore,” Rossmiller explained. “In many ways, the approach is the same for both types of students, but in others, there’s a contrast. For example, some social-emotional students have attachment challenges, and so a lot of our play focuses around the rules of that parent-child relationship where the play, the art, the music, and the therapist, at times, act as a loving parent. This work really needs to be done by highly trained clinicians because it can get complicated when trauma is involved or behaviors pop up in response to play.”
The recent training included all the music and art therapists on the expressive therapy team. For Camelot’s therapeutic day schools’ broader team, Camelot partnered with the Theraplay Institute in Evanston, IL, during the staff’s annual professional development in August. Camelot counselors, social workers, occupational therapists, and group therapists received that training. At each of its seven Illinois campuses, Camelot clinicians implement play techniques into their everyday sessions.
In addition to leading the recent training day for her team, Rossmiller has been busy spreading the word about the benefits of music therapy. In late November, she gave a guest lecture to undergraduate students in the Music Therapy Program at Augsburg University on clinical improvisation. She then attended the annual National Music Therapy Conference in Minneapolis with two Camelot music therapists.
“I love telling the story of our work and the way students are engaging so skillfully in music, which is not easy and has huge implications for social-emotional growth in our kids. Sharing about how to build relationships with students is part of my responsibility as a therapist. I always stress to my team that play is work and how hard it is for our students to play, and if our students can’t play, we know they’re not healthy. Similarly, if we can’t play, then we are not fit to do the work. We must always remember to advocate for the students we care for.”