Spotlight on ...

Courtney Alvarez

What I do for the board:

I am an at-large board member, and I organize and distribute the e-newsletter.


Why and when I joined the board:

I joined the board in 2019. I have benefited immensely from the work of others within APT, state APT chapters, and other professional organizations over the years. I saw an opportunity to give back through PA-APT in a way that seemed accessible and realistic to me.

I play at (where I work and what I do for fun):

I teach in the Professional Counseling Program at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. My office is one of the favorites on campus due to all the toys I use in my Introduction to Play Therapy and Children’s Play courses. I have a lot of fun encouraging my students to fully engage in play as a part of their training. For fun, I really like to venture out into nature. One of my favorite things about Pittsburgh is that I have access to two huge parks within the city, and I am a short drive from the Laurel Highlands when I want to go on long hikes. I love nature photography, and I am trying to have more opportunities to do that, particularly on ecotourism adventures.


Where I learned to play (school/trainings):

My first exposure to play therapy was a Play Therapy course and subsequent training and supervision during my Masters-level Practicum and Internship. I had the opportunity to attend the 2008 APT conference in Dallas, TX as a student volunteer, which I would highly recommend to students. I learned so much and had amazing opportunities to interact with major figures in the field. After my Masters, I have continued my play therapy training predominantly through conferences: Coastal Bend Chapter of the Texas Association for Play Therapy, Pennsylvania Association for Play Therapy, and the Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Institute.


Why play therapy: My interest in play therapy can be attributed to the passion and humor that an early trainer and mentor brought to the field. I never intended to work with children, and they admittedly made me a bit uncomfortable when I started counseling training; however, I am the type of person to challenge myself. I enjoyed play therapy, and I felt like I really found myself as a play therapist. It is hard to imagine doing anything else now. Through play therapy with child and adult clients, you can truly enter into their worlds in ways that can’t be accomplished through talk therapy.

My favorite play therapy book (why?):

I am fond of any training or book by Terry Kottman. Her book, Play Therapy: Basics and Beyond was my first play therapy book. However, my new favorite is Doing Play Therapy: From Building the Relationship to Facilitating Change by Terry Kottman and Kirstin K. Meany-Walen. They have the ability to make play therapy accessible and understandable to any audience. I also enjoy how Kottman consistently promotes the wider field of play therapy that supersedes a particular theoretical orientation.


My favorite children’s book:

The Bad Seed by Jory John. I have worked with a lot of children, who were sent to me, because someone in their life believed that they were a “bad seed.” This book helps depict the heartbreak and suffering that ultimately leads to misunderstood behavior.


My favorite play therapy technique:

My first post-Masters position as a counselor was in a solution-focused brief therapy program. I always find myself integrating or falling back into patterns of solution-focused therapy. I really enjoy using sandtray in ways that promote solution-focused thinking in clients by depicting their preferred reality and uncovering the small steps that need to happen to shift their current reality to that.


My favorite play therapy quote:

“Children’s play is not mere sport, it is full of meaning and import.” – F.W. Froebel

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