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Louisiana Association for Play Therapy Names Loyola Faculty Member 2017 Play Therapist of the Year for Lifetime Achievement

Loyola press release - February 21, 2017

The Louisiana Association for Play Therapy has awarded Loyola University New Orleans faculty member Rheta LeAnne Steen, Ph.D., LPC-S, the LAPT’s 2017 Play Therapist of the Year for Lifetime Achievement Award. Steen, a registered play therapist-supervisor and associate professor in Loyola’s Department of Counseling, is creator, founder, and director of the Play Therapy Center for Education and Research at Loyola, the state’s premier location for play therapy education and research. Steen was surprised by the 2017 Play Therapist of the Year for Lifetime Achievement Award during the LAPT’s annual conference, held this month at the university.

“I am so incredibly honored the Louisiana Association for Play Therapy has awarded me the 2017 Play Therapist of the Year for Lifetime Achievement,” Steen said. “The members of this special organization have worked tirelessly promoting play therapy and developing a local brigade of play therapists to meet the needs of children and families in Louisiana. The dedication of these women, and men, in Louisiana has inspired me, and I am absolutely ecstatic that they see me as deserving of this honor.

“The relationship between the Loyola Play Therapy Center and the LAPT is important to me in that I want it to be strong,” Steen added, “as we all have the same goal, which is primarily, to promote play therapy education and pollinate Louisiana with registered play therapists to see children, caregivers, and families in need.”

A member of the Texas Association for Play Therapists since 1999, Steen is unique among past recipients in that she did not join the Louisiana branch until 2005. However, in the dozen years that she has been an LAPT member, she has contributed greatly to the organization and development of play therapy research and education in Louisiana, the LAPT said.

Since 2006, Steen has held four LAPT board positions, helping to drive membership as the organization’s membership chair and serving as its president from 2013 to 2015. Under Steen’s leadership, Loyola has for 11 years hosted LAPT’s annual conference, which brings together registered play therapists and those in training for network and training purposes, in an effort to improve the therapeutic services available to the children of Louisiana.

Steen has worked in Loyola University of New Orleans’ Department of Counseling since 2005 and has served as an associate professor since 2012. In 2008, she founded the Loyola Play Therapy Center for Education and Research. The center is the only one of its kind in Louisiana; it is the third play therapy center in the U.S. to be officially recognized and is one of fewer than 30 such centers in the nation. In 2009, the center was recognized nationally as the third official certified Play Therapy Center in the United States.

Under Steen’s leadership, the center has continued to receive designation as an Approved Center of Play Therapy Education from the national Association for Play Therapy (APT) every three years, and as recently as May 2016. Only 16 percent of accredited colleges and universities today offer play therapy instruction and supervised clinical experiences.

Last spring, Steen secured an endowment from The Heebe Family Fund designed to ensure a lasting legacy for the center at Loyola and open up new opportunities for healthcare professionals, especially mental health counselors focused on families struggling with life- threatening illnesses, such as cancer.

Throughout her career, Steen has made contributions in the field of play therapy promoting professionalism and education about play therapy in Louisiana and nationwide, the LAPT said in a statement. She participates in cutting-edge research designed to validate the techniques and services covered in the practice of play therapy and recently co-edited a 2017 book, Emerging-Research in Play Therapy, Child Counseling, and Consultation, published this month.

Steen graduated from the national Association for Play Therapy’s (APT) Leadership Academy, a training program for upcoming national and state leaders in 2011 and has served on four different committees or task forces at the national level, according to the LAPT, and continues to embrace the mission of APT and LAPT in providing play therapy services in the community.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Steen established a Therapeutic Play Camp for children in New Orleans; results were published in the June 2007 edition of Play Therapy Magazine. The well-received and oft-quoted article was entitled “Responding to Natural Disaster: Developing a Therapeutic Play Camp to Deal with Traumatic Events in New Orleans."