“The greatest challenge is not being able to fix everything; a child can take great steps in the play therapy room, but if their environment outside does not facilitate and welcome these changes; it can hold them in patterns which restrict this growth.” Carly Tennant on working as a play therapist…
Carly Tennant, 30, lives in Seven Sisters with three other professionals in their 30s. “We are a mixed bunch and get on really well; it’s a lovely family home.”
What’s your home like?
My home is a lovely relaxing hub where I can take solitude from the hectic city buzz. It’s great because there’s always someone to chat to but everyone respects each other’s space. I love to be in the garden and bask in the sun with our two cats; Bernie and Hess.
What time are you up in the morning?
I’m usually up around 8.30am; freelancing works well for me because I enjoy my mornings at home and can mentally and physically prepare for my day ahead. My job can be challenging at times and I’ve learned that in order to give my best self to my clients, I need to feel my best.
What wakes you up?
The soft tinkling of my alarm or the patter of paws on my chest (if my mischievous feline friend sneaks his way in).
How do you feel?
I love my mornings so I am usually feeling pretty enthusiastic, refreshed, and ready to go.
What do you do first thing?
The first thing I do is pick up my pen and write, write, write – three pages of whatever is in my head. I practise this every day and find it really useful to organise my brain and bring unconscious musings or niggles to the surface so I can deal with them creatively.
In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Happy, refresh, prepare.
Tea or coffee?
How might the rest of your day pan out?
Depending on my schedule I will either head out to my first client or work from home; I often have case notes to complete, referrals to process and reports to write. I may have up to three play therapy sessions a day which can involve a lot of travelling, so I have to prepare my equipment as I have two play therapy kits. I work in various locations but mainly hold sessions in the child’s school.
Tell us about your work as a play therapist…
I was given a book about play therapy, Dibs: In Search of Self, by Virginia Axline, and this very moving and inspiring case study sparked my interest. I was fascinated by play as therapy and I have always loved children. After my BA Psychology degree and three years of working in the SEN sector (special educational needs), I discovered the BAPT (British Association of Play Therapist) Play Therapy training programme at Roehampton University. This two-year course was one of the most challenging and rewarding periods of my life; the balance of personal development with playful curiosity, clinical practice and academic study made it an engaging, stimulating and life changing experience.
I had to complete 100 hours of clinical practice, a 10,000 word dissertation and a number of essays and projects, as well as a log of my clinical practice and evidence of adhering to the ethical and practical guidelines of the BAPT. I was also obliged to undertake my own personal therapy sessions in order to work through previous trauma and understand how my own personal history can impact my relationships with clients.
The training has set me up with a solid foundation for holding therapeutic interventions with children, their families, and working with relevant organisations such as social care, the education sector and the NHS, and I have accumulated a wealth of experience in developmental psychology, working with trauma, and child-centred play therapy techniques.
I have been practising freelance for three years and work with children between the ages of 4-13 years who may have experienced trauma or who are going through a difficult time. My experience includes: violence-based trauma, bereavement, parental divorce, adoption, attachment difficulties, neglect, angry outbursts and tantrums, ADHD diagnoses, and speech disorder.
I have worked for CAMHS, the adoption support team, Kids Company and various primary schools in London. I am currently doing a lot of work with adoptive families.
Unfortunately due to reduced funding in schools and the NHS, there are fewer resources to support children through emotional difficulties and to get the support they need
What’s the greatest challenge with your career?
The greatest challenge is not being able to fix everything; a child can take great steps in the play therapy room, but if their environment outside does not facilitate and welcome these changes; it can hold them in patterns which restrict this growth.
What makes it all worthwhile?
Really getting to know individual children, watching them learn about themselves and build confidence and independence, witnessing their continuous delight in finding out who they are, what they want and what they can do. It is a privilege for me to work with children in this way and enter their surreal, magical and wonderful realms of play.
What’s the secret to career success?
Balancing work with play; in order to be a good therapist, I need to take care of myself and be happy. I make sure I nurture myself with hot baths and chocolate, fun and rest. As a play therapist, I have learned the importance of play and taking the heavy with the light.
Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
I feel very lucky because I love my job and also have the freedom to choose my own hours. Unfortunately due to reduced funding in schools and the NHS, there are fewer resources to support children through emotional difficulties and to get the support they need. Freelancing can be tricky at times but I also balance play therapy with other work such as specialist child care, and holding workshops.
Describe an ideal weekend?
An ideal weekend for me would be seeing friends, sitting in the sun, and eating good food. I love wild swimming so visiting Hampstead Heath would be perfect, it would also have to include a lot of dancing.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Floating on a lilo on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena, Columbia!
If you are concerned about a child or want to find out more about play therapy and my official governing body, visit the BAPT website www.bapt.info . If you’d like to find out more about me and how I work, you can check me out at www.carlyplaytherapy.com. I offer a free consultation, and I’m very happy to respond to queries or call for an informal chat.