Katherine Boone Outstanding Play Therapist Award

Congratulations to our very own Jennie Wilson for being honored with the Katherine Boone Outstanding Play Therapist award, the biggest honor that someone can be given from the Missouri Association for Play Therapy. In order to obtain this honor she had to have been nominated by her fellow colleagues or peers in the field.  Additionally, to obtain this honor she had to be responsible for “…innovations in play therapy, for providing leadership in the further development of play therapy, or for performing an outstanding service to the school or community.”    She was presented with this award at the awards ceremony during the 2016 Missouri Association for Play Therapy’s annual conference in Columbia, Missouri.

Congratulations Jennie!


Here, Jennie receives her award from Missouri Association for Play Therapy's Board President Ann Elliot

Here, Jennie receives her award from Missouri Association for Play Therapy’s Board President Ann Elliot.





National Foster Care Month 2016

The success of our country tomorrow depends on the well-being of our children today. During National Foster Care Month, we lift up our Nation’s foster children, celebrate the selfless men and women who embrace children in the foster care system, and we recommit to helping more children find permanency so they can feel stable, grounded, and free to fulfill their limitless potential.” – Barack Obama

So, happy National Foster Care Month  to all youth, parents, caregivers, and more! To celebrate appropriately, it is only accurate to explain the history behind Foster Care Month and why it is important to us all. National Foster Care Month is absolutely a time to rejoice and be grateful to all of those who work with foster care children. It is a time to not only celebrate, but also put our focus to children who are waiting in foster homes for a solid and permanent adoptive family. Along with foster children waiting for a home, we also keep in mind those adolescents who are aging out of the system when they turn 18. It is important to gain knowledge and spread awareness on this topic in order to improve solidified foster families and benefit those who are seeking those families. All in all, let us celebrate and continually be in remembrance of the touching opportunity we have every day (and especially this month) to change lives for the better!

Facts about Foster Care:

  • It all began in 1988, when Senator Strom Thurmond, with the encouragement from the National Foster Care Association, introduced a resolution to proclaim May as National Foster Care Month.
  • Over 400,000 children remain in the foster care system.
  • Tens of thousands of youth age out of foster care before they find their forever family Only half of children in foster care complete high school by age 18 and less than 5 percent graduate college.
  • Young people who age out of foster care without a permanent home are often at higher risk of entering the criminal justice system, and they can face greater challenges to completing an education, obtaining high-quality health care, and securing gainful employment.
  • Difficult outcomes of foster care children are often exaggerated further when they are placed in group homes.

Tips to Surviving Foster Care Parenting:

  1. Your child is a child (regardless of background). They will act out, scream, fuss, and often be ignorant to rules. Keep in mind that they have been exposed to abnormal childhood memories. If they act out, use alternate methods to keep their behavior on track. Restrict punishment from being too harsh. Children just need a little love.
  2. Remember their birthdays and other special memories! They need to be shown that their life matters (especially to their newfound family).
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk about biological parents only if your child wants to. Make sure to be honest and open with them.
  4. Make positive and fun incentives for your foster child when they achieve good behavior!
  5. Don’t give up on your child. Keep in mind that these children are affected every time they are dumped and moved to a new home. Try to keep them as long as you can!


“Presidential Proclamation — National Foster Care Month, 2016.” The White House. The White House, 28 Apr. 2016. Web. 18 May 2016.

“The History of National Foster Care Month.” About.com Parenting. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2016.


Miranda Chaney is an Under-Graduate Student Intern at Step By Step Counseling, LLC from Lindenwood University.


Play Therapy Week 2016

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation
Plato – 427–347 BC
Happy National Play Therapy Week to all the play therapists out there, and clients who are receiving play therapy services!!  What a great opportunity to celebrate how powerful play therapy is.  Anyone who has met me knows how passionate I am about this field. What is Play Therapy?   For me, as a Registered Play Therapist, play therapy is the way that I’m able to help children, adolescents and families.  Play therapy helps me reach children using developmentally appropriate theories and techniques to help them through whatever they are struggling with.   Need a more detailed explanation? Check out this video from APT!    Andrew Video, from Association for Play Therapy

Are you a lawyer, a parent, or a caseworker and you’re not sure that you buy into this whole “play therapy” scene?  I encourage you to check out my play therapy page, for a more descriptive explanation. If you still have questions, I would love an opportunity to invite you to my playroom and have an opportunity to address your concerns. At the office, I also have a binder full of research articles on the effectiveness of play therapy when working with children. Some of these research articles can also be found here:  MAPT
When looking for someone to work with children, I highly recommend finding someone with the credentials of a Registered Play Therapist or someone who’s under supervision for that credential.  What exactly is that?  The credentials of a Registered Play Therapist are conferred by the Association for Play Therapy (APT); a professional organization that helps advance play therapy by sponsoring credentialing, as well as promoting research and training. Play therapists can be licensed counselors, clinical social workers, psychologists and certified school counselors.  For those who are unfamiliar with this credential, to become an RPT,  one must have  earned either a masters or doctoral degree in mental health and have the clocked hours of play therapy training and clinical experience under supervision. Recently, APT has also added a new credential SB-RPT (School Based) which recognizes our amazing guidance counselors and the work they do with children.  For me, that clinical experience under supervision was what helped me develop into the play therapist I am today.

In our office we have 4 therapists who use play therapy with children. Below are some pictures of our office playrooms.  Everything is in these rooms are for a reason.  We have specific toys, with specific themes.


Office 1: View of Playroom from the door



Office 1: View of Sandtray shelves



Office 1: Other side of playroom



Office 2: View of Playroom inside of office



Office 2: View of Playroom from the door



Happy Play Therapy Week!

Middle School Support

Are you a parent of a middle school student? Do you constantly battle it out with your tween or young teen?   I work with this age group regularly, both in individual counseling and in group counseling.  This age group is amazingly awesome to have in the office, best of both worlds – the playfulness of a child and the growing maturity of a teenager.  We don’t know if we’ll get the sweet innocence of a child or the lashing out of a teenager but either way I love them unconditionally.

Here are some common themes that middle school students wish their families or parents knew.

  • Your tween or young teen might be moody.  While it’s important to set a level of respect in the house, as their guardian, do not take it personally.  We all have bad days. Your tween is still learning coping strategies of what to do when they feel that way. Give them the space to do that.
  • Explain why consequences are being placed, or why you are upset.  Believe it or not, while you may feel like it’s common sense, your tween or young teen may not totally understand what is going on.  Connecting the dots is a little challenging for this age group. Having the conversation while calm, allows the teen to understand it on a deeper level. Having rules and consequences posted in your house can also help them see the connection.
  • Respect them.  While they might be your kid, they are their own person, with opinions and values different from yours. Your comments will stick with them whether they are positive or negative.   Be remembered as the parent who supported their adolescent. Show them that THEY are valued, even if you disagree with what that is.
  • Show interest in them.  Laugh at their jokes or be involved in the story they are telling by asking questions.  They do care about what you have to say and how you respond to them. Let them know when you like something about them. Sometimes that might be just what they need to snap out of the funk.
  • Hang out with them.  While sometime we may not feel like we have anything in common, just spending time with them is vital. It doesn’t have to be a large event. The simple boring moments are what this age group remembers the most.  Parents can be watch the baseball game on tv, or it can be stopping by their school at lunch to eat lunch with them or even helping them with their chores while catching up on their week.  When you put down your screens or put aside your busy life, they will see that they are important, that they are valued.
  • While the tween or young teenager won’t admit it, they still need their guardians to help them self regulate – whether that be with time they spend in front of screens, social times with friends, unhealthy foods, etc.   This age group is still learning, and still need their guardians to be loving and set boundaries. They might not appreciate it in the moment, but one day they will.
  • One last thing, you do not need to “save the day” every time your tween or young teen is in trouble. Allow your tween or young teen to turn in an incomplete assignment or project or allow them to make choices that might be different than you would make yourself.  They need to experience those moments in order to learn from them.


Jennie Wilson is a child and adolescent therapist. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor.



Many parents or colleagues who struggle with children and adolescents ask how I am able to see progress when I work with these ages. I always tell them I start with trust. So that is what I’m going to focus on today. Many of the clients that I see in the office struggle with trust. All too often in the beginning I hear “I will never trust anyone again,” or “I don’t know if I can trust anyone again.” Or worse, “I have trust issues” or “I don’t trust myself…” If not those, I hear from the caregivers “I don’t trust him/her” or “I would like them to earn their trust back…” One of my favorite roles as a counselor is helping clients and their families build trust in themselves, their families and their communities. This is a tough task, but it can be done!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as “a belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” In High School, my Aunt told us that we needed to earn her trust. Her husband, my Uncle, told me that trust was not a matter one particular thing, it was our character, how we chose to live each day, and it had to be consistent. I remember the example he used with my cousin. He stated “You can’t just come home on time once, you have to meet curfew every night in order for her to trust that you’ll be home by curfew.” This has stuck with me over the years, that it’s hard to “fake” trust – one has to follow through with what they say, and it’s something that has to be repeated time and time again, and earned over time.

I view trust as a bank account. As we encounter positive moments we are depositing into the trust account. On the other hand, when we mess up – big or small – we are withdrawing from our trust accounts, sometimes small amounts, other times by larger amounts. Furthermore, the loved ones in our lives deposit or withdrawal moments of trust into our lives depending on the day to day situations that arise. I truly believe that trust is built in small increments or small moments. Sure, grand gestures don’t hurt, but our bank accounts are meant to grow over time. I frequently share a quote with the guardians of the clients in my office “Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of.” (Bob Vanourek). I follow it up with, our children learn to trust adults in their lives when they can be vulnerable AND safe. Are you, as a parent/guardian providing opportunities where your children/adolescents feel safe and supported?

When working with clients, I start by teaching clients how to trust themselves. If we cannot trust ourselves, how can we expect others to trust us? Self trust also leads to self love. If you find yourself struggling with trust, you should examine how you treat yourself. We cannot ask for something that we do not believe we are worthy of receiving.

When families struggle with trust, I love using Brene Brown’s acronym BRAVING.  She has a great way of explaining trust and I love walking families through each one of these finding ways in their lives that each one applies.

  • B – Boundaries
    • One must be clear about boundaries, showing that it is important to respect those with not only yourself but other people.
  • R – Reliability
    • One must do what they say they are going to do, over and over again.  Someone gains others’ trust by being consistent and honest.
  • A – Accountability
    • If one makes a mistake, own it, apologize for it and make amends. Everyone makes mistakes, showing honesty and transparency helps build trust.
  • V – Vault
    • Can information be stored safely?  What someone shares with you, will you hold in confidence? By keeping information safe,  that is saying to others:  I respect your story and others stories.
  • I – Integrity
    • Saying to yourself, “I must stand in a place of integrity and challenge others to do that too” is something important to tell yourself. It’s vital to choose courage over comfort, what’s right over what’s easy, and practice what you preach…but to also encourage others to do that as well.
  • N – Non-Judgement
    • Can someone fall apart in front of me, and not be judged?
  • G -Generosity
    • We must assume the most generous thing about others words, or actions or behaviors.  It’s important to be in a place where you do not assume the worst of someone.

Knowing all these different ways to build trust, do we take advantage of building trust with our friends, families and co-workers?  Reply below, what are the hardest ones for you to do?

Thank you for TRUSTING me with your families in 2015.  Blessings to you in the new year!

Jennie Wilson is a child and adolescent therapist. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor.


Its Time For the Holidays

The holidays can be overwhelming for the most organized and prepared host/hostess. The thought of the holidays can include family traditions, hosting gatherings and a lot of planning of the planners. In actuality we could plan every hour, from the moment we rise out of bed to the second we shut our eyes; however, reality is sometimes plans change.

Life happens. A professor of mine once referenced this as ‘happenstance’. It’s those moments in life where an individual stops to question themselves and say “What in the heck just happen” or  “That just came out of the blue” All this means is we don’t have as much control as we think, but what we can control; lets….

So the holidays…

Holidays have a tendency to effect a large magnitude of people in many ways. Those individuals with mixed emotions, some are full of voids, the in-laws at  family gathering, tighten budgets and the sadness of loved ones. Believe it or not family gathers can even make the faint at heart miss the individuals that seem to only show up to wreak havoc or the peacemaker become overly vocal, and let’s not forget the adoring soundboard.

I could go on and on, but I’m sure you follow where I’m headed. So what do you, do. Now that you’ve read this and the emotions have officially surfaced. How do you put the top back on the jar and carry on? How do you mustard up your strength and drive to pick up the kiddos? Okay. There isn’t a magic answer. Good news is, there is an answer.

The answer varies for each individual so I’ll give you some holiday tips so you can put the ‘I’ back into HOL’I’DAYS. It’s time for you to get right back into the middle of it all.

H – Have a whiff of citrus, studies have found that certain citrus fragrances boost feelings and alleviate stress

O – Owe it to yourself and loved ones to be mindful and grateful for those you have around you and shower them with love

L – Laugh a little more, it’s far more contagious than cough, cold or sniffle. Laughter is strong medicine for mind and body

I – Incorporating mindfulness meditation (unconditionally present) and continue after the holidays to help with the stress and anxiety of everyday life

D – Delegate the duties out to others, get them involved and be mindful, they probably won’t do it your way, but that’s really ok – it’s the holidays

A – Attend a local support group may be helpful during this time of the year

Y – Yoga, it’s worth a try

S – Spend a few minutes daily leading up to the holiday event remembering the good times you shared with your loved ones.


Nesha Smith is the Graduate Counseling Intern with in the Stepping Stones program at Step By Step Counseling, LLC.

What is Expressive Arts and why use it in therapy?

“What is Expressive Arts?”

I have been asked this question many times, and it makes me smile every time, because then I get to explain it! Expressive arts encompasses a wide range of art forms such as visual arts like painting or printmaking, poetry, music, movement, and much more. All of these modes of expression can support the therapeutic process. As you may have experienced, words can be limiting. Often times our words alone cannot fully capture the emotions we are feeling. Entering into an expressive mode allows you to move beyond words and connect to your soul self.

Now I know that for many people the words “expressive arts” might sound intimidating. Perhaps you think “I can’t draw” or “I’m not an artist”, and you would not be alone, many people feel the same way. The real beauty of using art in therapy is that you do no have to be a skilled artist, in fact skill doesn’t matter in this setting. What matters is the process, allowing yourself to experience art in a new way, as a mode of expression where the product is not the goal, instead the objective is to learn from the process. Another great thing about this process that may be different than other experiences is that there is no right or wrong to do it, when you are the creator there are no limitations. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “I messed up”… my reaction is always the same, I reply “There are no mistakes in art, only surprises!”

This week if your feeling blue or stuck on a problem here are a couple of things you can do to rejuvenate yourself and engage in an art process:

  • Grab a pen and paper and doodle, don’t think just doodle. This is a great way to rid yourself of distractions and find focus before starting a new project.
  • Dig your hands into some dirt or clay, and really notice how it feels. This is a great way to ground yourself.
  • Write a haiku. A haiku is a short poem with only three lines. Line one is five syllables, line two is seven syllables, and line three is five syllables. This is a fun way to extract all the excess parts of a thought and hone in on the most important pieces.
  • Turn on your favorite song, get up and dance around your house, act like a fool, laugh at yourself, and breathe a sigh of relief. This is a great way to release stress!


Sarah Peck is the Graduate Counseling Intern with in the Stepping Stones program at Step By Step Counseling, LLC.

Tips for Easing Back to School Anxiety

Some children struggle with school anxiety, below are a few tips that I recommend for families to practice while students are entering the “back to school season”:
  • Create a mini-family photo album that they can look at during school if needed.
  • Social story:  a short story talking about going to school and what to expect when going to school
  • Read stories at home:  http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2012/07/31-books-to-read-about-school.html
  • Attend meet your teacher night
  • Transition object:  Some kids may find it helpful to bring something from home to help them feel comfortable
  • Quick kiss and goodbye:  sometimes when parents stay this teaches kids that if they get upset then they get to go home.
  • Help them get back into a routine before and after school as well.  It helps to start a few days before school starts.
  • Do a practice (drive past school, visit playground, hang out at the bus stop for a while)
  • Try to appear excited or relaxed about school.   You do not want your worries making them feel there is a need to be worried
  • Letting them feel in control (helping them choose their outfit or what to pack for lunch
  • Empathize their worries “you are feeling worried about mommy and daddy not being at school” “many other kids feel this way too”
  • Some kids are old enough to brainstorm ideas for feeling better at school, take a break to draw a picture call mom at lunch bring something from home
  • Color a back to school banner to take on first day
  • Donate school supplies to take the focus off of them
  • Practice deep breathing or guided imagery
  • crate a story puppet show about a kid’s going back to school


Lisa Cholley,  is a Provisionally Licensed Professional Counselor at Step By Step Counseling, LLC.

Why is Counseling Important?


Often times I am asked why is counseling important? Or why do you have to meet each week? These are important questions and something that should be discussed with anyone who enters or is seeking counseling. Allow me to give you my perspective.

Let’s say you have a pain running down your arm. It has lasted for days. It doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. What would you do? Some would say go to a doctor. In fact, this is the most popular answer. So then why do we avoid going to see someone for our emotional pain? Why wouldn’t you want to alleviate mental pain just as quickly as physically pain? This is part of what counseling is meant to accomplish: reducing or alleviating emotional pain/stress. Of course, there are multitudes of other areas of counseling just like medicine, but this is one example.

So let me address the other question. Why weekly? Have you ever watched someone heal from a significant injury? Usually this requires some form of physical therapy. They go each week to stretch muscles and/or increase strength. When sessions are skipped, it takes longer to recover or gains that have been made can be lost. Counseling is no different. It is structured as a weekly session so that you can “stretch” those emotional muscles and learn strategies to increase or gain strength. It helps you maintain skills throughout the week, When time elapses, you may take longer to build those “emotional muscles” or loses some of the gains made. Why make it harder on yourself? Afterall, counseling is meant to lessen a burden, not increase it.


Eileen Henry is the Graduate Counseling Intern with in the Stepping Stones program at Step By Step Counseling, LLC.