Clinical social worker Elizabeth Campbell’s office is not what you’d expect in the traditional sense.
Her Princeton office isn’t just set up with chairs for talk therapy. It’s set up for play, too. Play therapy is the process of using toys, games, art and music to reach a child or adult, Campbell said.
Campbell opened Play It Forward, 618 N. Main St., in April.
“With kids, the way we look at it as a play therapist, the toy is their words and the play is their language.”— Elizabeth Campbell, clinical social worker
“It allows a child whose brain isn’t fully developed to talk about a difficult situation, trauma or experience in a way they understand,” Campbell said. “With kids, the way we look at it as a play therapist, the toy is their words and the play is their language.
“As they’re playing and interacting with us, they’re expressing feelings and emotions and situations that are going on at home. Then we can talk about it in that capacity or use the toys or puppets and things like that in order to work through those big emotions, so it’s not so heavy for them to sit there and talk one on one.”
Campbell also is a certified specialist in sand tray therapy, which also helps people express themselves without using words. She has four sand boxes and many kinds of miniature figures. Instead of addressing their needs with words, Campbell might ask a person to show her what anxiety looks like in the sand tray.
“They’ll go around the room and look at all these miniatures. One might pick a dragon, one might pick a whole bunch of things, and they’ll make a scene out of it, and we’ll talk about the things in the tray, and it basically allows them to talk about the trauma in a second-person perspective. It brings out a lot of subconscious things that they didn’t really notice.”
She’s been working as a school social worker since 2018 and last year was working in Princeton when she noticed a need for children’s therapy in the area and decided to leave social work and open a private practice in Princeton.
She was drawn to this work after she received the help of a social worker as a single mom who was a survivor of domestic violence.
“I had a social worker who truly just resonated with me and helped my kids through everything and got us to a place where we were able to thrive again,” she said. “And because of that, I wanted to do that for others. Through my journey, I realized I really enjoyed working with kids and schools and working with parents.”
She works on coping skills and executive function skills with children who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. She also helps with family trauma and grieving, and works with teens struggling with eating disorders, healthy relationships and healthy internet usage. She also helps with parent education and coaching.
Although most of her clients are children, she said she treats almost as many adults.
“A lot of people think therapy is only for kids. Honestly, it’s so amazing for adults and families to work through either childhood experiences they had or, to people who are apprehensive to try therapy at all, to come into a safe place with games and art and to be able to express yourself with a vision board. It evens the level for you, so you feel safe to share what you want to share.”
Campbell also has two tortoises, Peanut Butter and Jelly, in her lobby, which helps the guard come down for young and old alike.
For information such as accepted forms of insurance, visit playitforwardcounseling.com.
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