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
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
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
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
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".
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
*Dr. Tatiana Andmschenko is Dean of
Educational Psychology and Social Work at Volgograd State Teacher
The co-authors thank Ludmilla Karpova, VSTTU faculty member, for translating Dr. Andruschenko's contribution into English.