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HOW A SEED HAS GROWN!

By Tatiana Andruschenko, PhD,*
and Carolyn Kawamoto, MA, LPC-S, RPT**

***

A Fall 1999 visit to Volgograd, formerly called Stalingrad, a city approximately 600 miles south of Moscow, enabled me to speak at Volgograd State Teacher Training University (VSTTU). Meeting and hearing native speaking visitors is a welcomed event, especially for the Department of Foreign Languages. This is where the topic of play therapy was first addressed to students of English Language Studies and their professors.

Kevin O'Connor, in the APT newsletter's guest column article, "Play Therapy Around The World," (September 2000), mentioned that play therapy had been introduced in Volgograd. This article describes how one small opportunity to advocate play therapy has evolved into a collaborative effort to develop play therapy training in one Russian university. It is my privilege to work with resourceful, highly dedicated professionals and students at this university, who possess a passion for learning and for making a difference in their country.

Part 1: Introduction of Play Therapy to Student Teachers (Carolyn Kawamoto)

This introduction to play therapy began with a simple experiential activity - blowing

bubbles into the air. The reaction of surprise and guarded amusement was soon replaced with the sight and sound of smiles and laughter. It was at this point that the students heard about "entering into the world of play." A general overview of the principles of play therapy, the goals and its benefits for promoting self-responsibility, self-respect and self-control in children was described. An important focus was the relationship building nature of play therapy. It was suggested that a classroom atmosphere conducive to learning could be established, using special play therapy skills that could facilitate attitudinal adjustments on the part of both teacher and student.

An introduction to Ludmilla Smimova, then the Dean of Foreign Languages and co-director of a Russian-American project, called Character for Kids Seminars followed the lecture. The university had signed an agreement with Dallas-based Character International, Inc., who would provide trainers to conduct character development seminars at VSTTU. The Character for Kids program trains future teachers on how to teach students the seven universal character values of honesty, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility caring, courage, and fairness.

Ms. Smimova reported that her colleagues who had been in attendance of my

talk expressed an interest in play therapy. She added that they recognized how play therapy could improve the teacher's ability to facilitate the character development of children. In addition, they suggested that play therapy be added to the character training program. The validation from the professors provided the catalyst to integrate the fundamentals of play therapy into the Character for Kids program.

An invitation to come a trainer was extended to me by Charles and Lynda Landreth, CFK directors. Mrs. Landreth, author of the Character for Kids curriculum and owner/instructor of Montessori-based schools, generously allowed me to incorporate aspects of play therapy within the character value modules. The unique feature of this training is its focus on the developmental stages for building character values in children. Therefore, play therapy goals and techniques offered additional practical approaches to reinforce the concept of character development.

are some examples of how play therapy was integrated into the program. In the module on "Caring," the importance of reflective listening responses to improve a child's self-awareness of his feelings and thoughts is emphasized. In the modules on "Responsibility" and "Respect," the concepts of choice giving and limit setting are introduced. The "special words" used by play therapists for encouraging the development of a child's internal mechanism for self-responsibility and self control also demonstrated the mutual respect that can be established between student and teacher. In the module on "Courage," discussion about how the feedback children receive when attempting new tasks, such as walking, swimming, or learning how to read can influence the child's ability to exercise healthy risk-taking, the precursor for courage. Student teachers also learn how the use of encouraging statements or "praising the effort or thinking" can facilitate the child's intemalization of his self-worth and self-confidence. (Note: The Russian philosophy of education is child-centered in theory. Play therapy serves well to demonstrate the practical modalities of this theory in the educational setting.)

Since the inception of the Character for Kids seminars, Ludmilla Milovanova, current Dean of Foreign Languages and co-director of the Character International project, has avidly supported more specialized training to prepare student teachers for their practicum experiences in various educational institutions. Advanced seminars were approved and in the fall, 2000 "Communicating with Children -Character Values in Action" was introduced. This seminar covers more in depth techniques on reflective listening skills, setting limits and choice giving, similar to those taught in filial therapy training. Through lecture, role-playing and activities, this seminar is designed to prepare student teachers with fundamental relationship building skills and positive discipline techniques. Interest to develop more training in play therapy for school settings continues to grow.

Part II: Pre-Service Development of Educational Psychologists: Experiencing International Collaboration (Tatiana Andruschenko)

The educational psychologist is a new type of specialist for the Russian system of education. The School of Psychology and Social Work started developing educational psychologists in 1996. At present the School offers majors in "Pedagogy and Psychology," and "Social Work." Consulting children is one of the aspects of educational psychologist's work.

Mastering the theory and practice of child consulting based on play therapy is an important part of educational psychologists' pre-service development. Any significant contribution to the improvement of this difficult process is accepted gratefully. In this respect, we were very fortunate to make the acquaintance of Ms. Carolyn Kawamoto, an American play therapist who has for several years been engaged in a character development program at our University. While communicating with Ms. Kawamoto, we developed an understanding of the benefits of involving her in teaching about play therapy as a child consulting method. Ms. Kawamoto's willingness to share her wide range of practical experience, her collaboration with her teacher Dr. Garry Landreth, who generously contributed copies of his video and literature to our department, made a difference to our course.

Three seminars were developed, largely based on Dr. Landreth's "Play Therapy: the Art of the Relationship" in the Russian translation. The students were to fulfill several tasks at each of the seminars, based on the following goals: 1) understanding the child's behavior in a play situation, 2) establishing the therapeutic relationship; and 3) shaping the parents' attitude to the child's play sessbns.

The practical application module acquaints the students with the play therapy techniques and the therapists' behavior and attitude modes. Beginning in the year 2000, Ms. Kawamoto has been sharing her expertise with the students of the Psychology Department. The format consisted of: 1) Ms. Kawamoto conducting the introductory lecture; 2) students' watching Dr. Landreth's video, "Child Centered Play Therapy"; and 3) students' discussing the tape and question/ answer period with Ms. Kawamoto.

The students had the invaluable opportunity of a direct contact with a bearer of the play therapy philosophy and practice. They displayed a high motivation to speak about the opportunities given by the play therapy techniques, as well as their limitations; they also expressed a readiness to master the practical application of play therapy.

The students' interest and involvement can be readily seen in the written responses to the Dr. Landreth film. Here are a few of their comments:

Irene wrote: "While watching the film I noticed that the counselor managed to combine detachment from and involvement in the child's play. Also that he never deviated from the non-evaluative mode of interaction, that he was adept at reflecting the child's feelings and was sensitive to them. And he was so-o-o patient!!!"

Geffa wrote: "At first, I thought that it was a pretty simple technique: you just repeat the child's utterances, comment on her actions emphasizing the child's role as the initiator of activities. Gradually I came to realize that to be able to do that, the counselor must fully possess the art of keeping his comments strictly non-evaluative, which alone stimulates the child's self-direction. The counselor should also be firmly convinced of the child's innate ability to heal herself of the trauma experienced. The counselor is a mirror in which the child sees her own self. Seeing the reflection, interacting with it, empowers the child".

Valentina wrote: "First and foremost, I was impressed with the counselor's keeping his comments strictly non-evaluative. Even positive evaluation was withheld. One feels so tempted to give the child moral support saying, "Good!" or "Great!" instead of just commenting on what the child does well or not so well. Secondly, I was struck by the counselor's total concentration on the child.

Throughout the session, he unfailingly commented on every child's action. I think I would have found it somewhat tiring. Thirdly, I couldn't help noticing that the counselor hardly ever answered the child's questions directly or rendered any assistance unless asked to. Myself, I often feel tempted to show the child the right way to do things or to lend her a hand. I would be interested to know if it is possible to transfer the techniques to our culture".

Anonymous: "When watching the film, I came to realize that it was possible to avoid evaluating a child's actions even if she insists on being evaluated. I would like to try out these techniques conducting a 30-40-minute session with a Russian child, or to hear an account of such a session in order to know what the reactions of a Russian child would be".

Conclusion

We are motivated and encouraged by the students' enthusiastic responses to play therapy. Recently, we have outlined a project to develop filial play therapy specialists from among these willing students training to become educational psychologists and teachers. Beginning this fall, two important events will take place in Volgograd. First, the pilot project of filial therapy training for a selected group of students from the Educational Psychology Department and the Foreign Languages Department will begin in September. Second, a character development symposium will be held at the university in October, the first major collaboration to bring educational leaders from the whole Volga region, including colleges, universities, public and private schools to address the issue of character development. A demonstration class of the Character for Kids seminar will be presented, as well as round table discussions, featuring innovative character building techniques including those of play therapy.

The vision and goal that we share is to positively impact the development of the educational professional and their students whose lives they influence - creating an interest in a new breed, teachers and educational psychologists, who are therapeutic in attitude and skills through their applied knowledge of the fundamentals of play therapy.

 

*Dr. Tatiana Andmschenko is Dean of Educational Psychology and Social Work at Volgograd State Teacher Training University.

**Carolyn Kawamoto, Carolvn@flaqsvs.com.

  The co-authors thank Ludmilla Karpova, VSTTU faculty member, for translating Dr. Andruschenko's contribution into English.


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