Play therapy making a difference in children's lives - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Play therapy making a difference in children's lives

Therapy dog, Ms. Bella. Therapy dog, Ms. Bella.
Therapist Ellen King describing games she plays with Bella and the children. Therapist Ellen King describing games she plays with Bella and the children.
Ms. Bella on a wall mural in the play room. Ms. Bella on a wall mural in the play room.

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Play therapy is being offered right now in North Myrtle Beach for children suffering from anything from parents getting divorce to sexual abuse.

This type of therapy is used at the Center for Counseling and Wellness in North Myrtle Beach. It allows therapist to sit in on a child's play time to understand what might be going on in their everyday life.

Therapist Ellen King at the Center said with play therapy, it's amazing how much you can learn about a child's life by just watching them play. She says you have to see each child as an extreme individual and embrace that. For example, she had a pair of siblings that completely shut down in school. And as soon as she got them alone with a few toys she quickly realized the pain they were in.

“On the first session coming in...my ambulance… both of them separately from each other pulled that ambulance out and found characters...a woman and carried her to and from the hospital,” said King. “And so they were really processing what was going on in their life. Because it was a constant that they're mother was going back and forth to the hospital."

The Center also uses a therapy dog, Ms. Bella. She's considered an essential part of the therapist's treatment. Bella isn't there for just play, she's used as the center's therapeutic tool allowing for the kids to connect with her on a physical and personal level.

"In a way, I am working with the kids but Bella brings them to me,” said King. “They're more willing to trust me because of her, she's sort of a door opener to me."

King even said children who have suffered severe dog bites still grow fond of Bella. She is a corgi, those type of breeds aren't usually therapy dogs due to their temperament, but Kings said Bella is special.

King has Bella all over the play area, from figurines, to stuffed animals, and even on the wall mural. She says that way if Bella can't come the children will still feel like she's there. There are also games that are designed around Bella. King said those are always favorites with the kids. 

King said the main reason she's a child's therapist is because she was once like the children she treats. She suffers from auditory processing, which means that she can’t single everything out in a group of people. That is a reason why she treats her patients individually. Her disorder has allowed her to see the struggles her patients may have. She wants to be an advocate for kids to help them "figure things out". King says her job is about empathy and that she caters to every different patient she receives.

To learn more about children’s play therapy, head over to their website thecenter4counseling.com

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