The old Bob Noone office on Stratton St in downtown Logan recently received a facelift.
Colorful letters and children adorn the mirror finish windows, but inside innovative techniques provide healing for traumatized children.
West Virginia Power of Play Therapy Center is the brainchild of Boone County native Beth Hughes, and the center is making a household term of “play therapy” in the Coalfields.
Play therapy is a form of treatment that creates safety for traumatized children through the familiar act of playing.
Hughes, a licensed independent clinical social worker, says play therapy allows children to communicate on their level.
A career spanning 20 years in Alabama, Hughes has come home to bring her skill to an area starved of innovation.
“Play therapy is kind of a misnomer,” Hughes said. “It’s really a healing tool for young children too scared to talk or not even have the words to talk about physical, emotional or sexual trauma.”
Play therapy involves all things playful including painting, board games, toys and even puppets. In therapy, a child can take comfort in distance and safety created by playtime while coping with a traumatic event.
Hughes also trains therapists. Joey Mounts is the first registered play therapist in the coalfields under Hughes’ tutelage.
Mounts, a licensed professional counselor, said he became interested in play therapy through practice of the traditional methods he learned in graduate school.
“I found the traditional talk therapy was not effective." Mounts said. "I felt very overwhelmed as a provider.”
Mounts said children have a certain level of natural resilience. Play therapy can feed that resilience and change lives for the better.
“When play comes into the therapy session,” Mounts said, “it gives the child the ability to tap into that resilience and begin to heal from trauma. It’s really important we find these children and help them now because trauma has become generational. We’re getting kids who are the children’s children of traumatized children. At some point we have to break that cycle.”
Tessa May, of Man, is currently completing her master’s degree in counseling.
The trio works everyday with the goal of improving children’s lives. Moreover, they have no problem loading up the office and bringing play therapy to the most rural parts of southern West Virginia.
A bus, named Ivy, can take the experience of play therapy up the longest branches of McDowell, Mercer and other counties to bring the help kids need to survive the worst experiences imaginable.