Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) Samantha Cooper works to heal childhood trauma with the power of play.

The former stay-at-home mom has a strong background with children. She began her career five years ago with EA Family Services, a nonprofit family agency in San Andreas, after completing the 3,000 hours of therapy required for her degree.

“I had worked with children that were in the foster care system during my internship and knew they needed advocates outside of their therapist. When the opportunity to work for EA presented itself, I took it,” she said.

Just over a year ago, Cooper took a second job, opening a private practice at the Center for Creativity in San Andreas, where she provides traditional LMFT services for families, couples and individuals with an emphasis on Child Play Therapy.

In her own words, Cooper describes play therapy as “a more effective, age-appropriate method of helping kids.”

The National University graduate discovered the method a few years ago while taking a continuing education training course.

“While working for EA, I continued to see a huge need in the community for a therapist that worked with children of all ages that have experienced trauma,” Cooper said. “I noticed many therapists prefer not to work with children because traditional cognitive therapy is not effective with them. Many kids have experienced a wide range of trauma, from physical or sexual abuse, medical trauma, losing a parent, losing a home, divorce and custody as a few examples. There is a need in the community to better facilitate the healing of these children.”

Cooper decided to pursue certification in play therapy through a program offered by the Association for Play Therapy in Sacramento.

After 150 hours of training, two years and 2,000 hours of clinical experience and 500 hours of supervised play therapy experience, Cooper earned her credentials as a registered play therapist (RPT).

“One of the biggest challenges in this field is often dealing with heavy emotional issues like abuse, neglect and death,” Cooper said. “I feel play therapy helps children address the content of a traumatic event to create their story of what happened, then leach the emotional toxicity out of the child’s experience so it can be integrated into a healthy picture of themselves.”

Although the freeform style of play therapy is mostly aimed toward children, Cooper said individuals of all ages can benefit from the experience.

“It is particularly helpful when verbally articulating complex experiences and emotions is difficult,” Cooper said. “Plato said, ‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.’”

One of few RPTs in the region, Cooper can be contacted at samanthamft@comcast.net for more information.

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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