Our History

The Story of the Birth of the Idaho Play Therapy Association

By Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson
March 2008

Many may wonder today, “How did the Idaho Play Therapy Association begin?” Here is the story as I remember it. In the late 1990’s, many Mental Health Practitioners, mostly from the western region, traveled to SLC, Utah to attend a two day training and educational program on Play Therapy. We were in awe, for the presenter was Dr. Garry Landreth. The auditorium was literally packed with hundreds of folks, folks who were hungry to learn more about Play Therapy. Many of us were from Idaho we discovered.
At one point during the two days, Dr. Landreth put a call out to the audience, a challenge if you will, to start chapters in states where there was no state organization. I stood up and said, “Who is here from Idaho and would be interested in signing an interest and contact list” …many hands immediately were raised without hesitation. I sent the sheet around, we had many takers, and the list was long.
I traveled back to Idaho and got back to my busy Play Therapy Practice, and soon after, I was contacted by Barbara Robinson and others. Barbara asked if I still had the list, I did, a small group of us met. These early pioneers included myself, Sue Heng, Ann Patton, Ruby Walker, Barbara Robinson, Kathi Tomazin and Marlene Bubar. I became the national liaison contact, a necessity outlined in the bylaws of APT. It was great help, Dr. Lessie Perry and others guided us through the detailed and complex process. We had to create bylaws, get tax identification numbers and all sorts of details. This was all before email and the WWW. So much of this work was conducted via meetings, telephone and mail. Folks stepped forth to become the first President, Vice President, and other official roles. I became treasurer. We were all charter members, something I am proud of and still put on my resume. It was a lot of work, dedication and effort to get this going; a true labor of love. We were a tenacious bunch, tackled all hurdles and moved forward, proud of the mission we articulated… our charge was to organize and promote play therapy and offer training for practitioners in Idaho. It was a great time. I left Idaho in 1998 to become the Play Therapy educator at Sam Houston State University in Texas and have started a Play Clinic in Oregon and now am starting one at UNLV. It is so heart warming to know that the early work is being carried on in Idaho and that folks still promote and value the power of play.

Hope this gives the group some insight.

Much Care,

Dr. Dale




Sue Heng, RPT-S
April 2008

After the initial formation of Idaho Play Therapy Association, a council/board was established.  I remember Kathi Tomazin, Barb Robinson, Ruby Walker, Ann Patton, on that first board.  Later came Ella Dingman, Sister Mary Paul, Phyllis Montgomery, Diane Tausher, Mary Green, Michael Benjamin, Donna Hatch, and others being involved those years that I was active in this process. Initially we decided there would not be any officers because we all wanted to work together.  We began meeting monthly in Blackfoot, mostly, because it was the mid point between Pocatello and Idaho Falls where the council/board members worked and lived. Later we worked hard to include Council members from other areas of the state. We tried a number of ideas to get play therapists interested in this new organization.  Barb Robinson was crucial to the group’s survival as she called members the day before our meetings to ensure attendance.  We shared ideas about play therapy, networked and worked to carry out the tasks set out by APT for all Chapters.  At that time there was no executive director of APT.  APT staff and volunteers on the APT board gave minimal help, but were good at telling us the things we were not permitted to do.  We were not allowed to call ourselves “IDPlay”, or put it on the newsletter, we could not co-sponsor our conference with another organization, etc.  We all worked hard to figure out the best way to proceed to remain a viable State Chapter.

The two most difficult tasks were the mandate to have a conference during the first year and a news letter.  APT was very helpful in giving us names for speakers, and, because they were on the APT Board, we got a nice reduction in speaker fees.  We had very little monies in our treasury, so we were allowed to pay them after collecting funds from the conference.  We wanted members to have a very nice, comfortable place for our conference.  We were able to find a place that also did not demand payment until after the conference.  All council members were very nervous about the finances and the details of putting on such a grand affair.  We all worked hard getting out the brochures and other conference details, becoming good friends in the process.  This conference was a great success in two ways.  Members received the speakers well and gave positive feedback.  This was a big boost to our minimal treasury.  It enabled IDAPT to put on a number of other conferences that were not money makers, to pay for the newsletter mailings, and other IDAPT business.

As time went on, it became apparent that we needed a leader of our council.  We then set up officers of President, Treasurer, and Secretary. We needed minutes from our meetings and someone to keep track of income and expenditures.  APT became more and more demanding about criteria we needed to meet and send in to them.  When Bill Burns became executive director, he increasingly set up more and more hoops we had to make to stay viable.  At the same time, staff became more helpful, rather than saying, NO, to our ideas.

I then left the council for two years.  I was asked to return and was appointed to the council.  What follows occurred after my return.

What began as one news letter a year became three/ per year and then quarterly.  We had to make new bylaws because ours no longer met APT standards.  Everyone needs to thank Barbara Robinson for putting all our ideas together and creating the Bylaws.  We were required to create a Policy and Procedure Manual.  Mary Green delivered the final version in the process of moving to Washington.  Thanks Mary.  We needed to quit paying taxes on any monies we made from conferences, our only income besides dues.  WE had to go through the arduous process of getting a non-profit status (41-C).  This required gathering lots of documents and then more when the Feds asked for them.  I worked with an accountant who helped immensely with this task.  It took some time, but we finally received this status.

Bill Burns then announced more requirements if we wanted to attain branch status.  Bill was very helpful in problem solving ways to achieve these new goals.  We had many of them, but were lacking in one or two areas.  One criterion for gold membership was to have a certain number of Play Therapy Supervisors in Idaho.  At that time we were short by one or two.  I was frustrated with APT at times because they made, what seemed to me, extremely difficult demands for a small state with few members compared to other larger states.  We had council members who are volunteers, who all had jobs and families.  I complained, how could members get to become RPT-S when very few supervision opportunities were available.  I learned of long distance supervision and APT provided a list of possible supervisors. I felt I should try to get this certification so our Chapter could try for Gold one day.  This has been a very long process with long hard work by many people.  I am no longer on the Council, but am proud of those still working to make IDAPT a success.
Yeah!  We made GOLD this year!


Sue Heng, RPT-S
Past Treasurer
Past President for 2 terms of 2 years each
April 2008



Barbara Robinson, LCSW, MHA
June 2008

Isn’t it wonderful to have access to our history.  I am so grateful to Ella and the current council for requesting our founders to chronicle our beginnings for posterity.

Oh what a task to find in the recesses of my brain, our birth. (Please forgive my memory errors.)  Fortunately our birth wasn’t as painful as some of our growing pains. As Dale mentioned in April we loved Dr. Laundreth’s client-centered, non-directive model and were excited at the prospect of bringing a local chapter of APT to the Idaho.  We were all so thirsty for more training, let alone bringing training closer to home. Who would have thought in the early 90’s that we would have 23+ different Play Therapy models by 2007. Who could have imagined that we would have two and now three colleges teaching Therapists in Eastern Idaho. We were always envious of the resources in Boise and Salt Lake City.  HOW FAR WE HAVE COME!!!

What I remember about those early years was the fun we used to have at our meetings. We were all so excited to meet as a group; so excited to get to know one another, so excited to educate others.  Everyone was invited to the meetings, chapter members, non-members, students and even community individuals.  We all wanted to learn more about each other and Play Therapy. Only members could vote, but input was welcome from everyone.  That’s how we got to know each other.  It was great to have the emotional support, to commiserate and congratulate.  And even though life has taken some of us in different directions and to different communities, we all became life long friends.

I wasn’t exactly an officer although I did my rotation as President and Secretary.  I have a little different memory than Dale’s.  I think perhaps she was the treasurer before we set up a council and perhaps carried through with her duties for us even though I don’t remember having officers.  What I recall is that the founding members had researched several chapter models of operation and decided that we really liked the Oregon model. I had attended Oregon’s meetings during their annual conference to view first hand how it worked. (I think that’s where we got our first idea to have the annual meetings at our annual conference)  They had an executive “council,” not officers, no designated President, Treasurer or Secretary.  The entire council shared the duties. It seemed to be the ideal way to meet our needs as Sue stated last month, we all had so many responsibilities that we welcomed our coordination of efforts.

Once implemented, each month or quarter, I believe one of us would take the minutes and disperse them.  Each meeting one of us would preside.  We all contributed to the meeting agenda.  When we had a conference to plan each one of us would choose a task, a committee to chair if needed.  Each committee chair then asked members, non-members and students to help. If the chapter had another task to complete we would set up a committee of council members, chapter members, non-members and students to help. We were great at delegating, everyone helped and everything was always accomplished. No one felt too overwhelmed with their duties because we all had help.

Because the meetings included anyone interested in being involved, we built relationships with many individuals.  When it came time to vote in new council members, we really new the individuals who wanted to be voted in.  We new who they were, what they were really like, we new they were committed to the position, we had confidence in how they would represent us.   I had always hoped, as we grew through out Idaho that our respective regions would meet as we did.

One of our first conference presenters was Eliana Gil. I think because she was a new officer with APT she had to offer her services at conferences for a nominal fee.  The conference was exceptional.  I believe we had about 80 attendees. In those days, that turnout for any local workshop was phenomenal. The room was great, the food was great, the networking was great!  I seem to recall that it was held in a hotel in Pocatello and we netted several thousand dollars for our chapter.  Many members and non-members helped.  I think the committee included 7 or 8 individuals.   We had toys mailed from a play therapy retailer for sale and we had books for sale and give-a-ways, just like the “big conferences”. The attendees were thrilled. We felt we had arrived!! We also included, as part of the registration, a membership to IDAPT.  So we increased our membership. In those days one could join the state chapter without joining the National chapter.  That requirement today saddens me because that allowed many individuals to stay connected no matter what their financial situation was.

I don’t remember if it was our first conference or a later conference, but the registrations were coming in very slowly and the 7 or 8 of us became very worried.  We had another great presenter so we met to decide whether to cancel or not. I think I said something like:  “well, if we don’t get any other attendees except us how much would each of us have to pay?”  We figured it was about $500 or $600 a piece to cover our costs.  Right then we decided it would be worth it to pay that much if we had too!  We never worried again about any conference.

I often yearn for the “old” ways. I long for the connectedness that we worked so hard to create. I suspect that is in part because of my developmental age. [What that means is I must be getting old(er).] But also a result of my foray into attachment research and mindfulness. As humans,  attuning (which requires face to face) to others is crucial if people in relationships are to feel vibrant and alive, understood, and at peace.

If we cannot return to a face-to-face way of meeting frequently, my hope for the chapter is that many members participate in the conference calls.  And that we continue to find ways to include everyone in our monthly trainings, discussions and planning. We believe as a profession that Relationship is key, and I think we, as a profession, have the heart, soul, skills and desire to find a way to nurture our relationships.

I can’t say enough about how proud I am of the current council and their successful efforts to work through the growing pains of recent years. As Dale mentioned, many of us have gone on to other communities and added other trainings to our expertise.  We heard from Dale and all her accomplishments; and I believe Anne Patton has retired, Ruby Walker has since earned her Ph.D. and Kathi, Sue and I founded our own agencies.  I believe Mary Green has relocated to the state of Washington, and Sister Mary Paul continues her wonderful work in Pocatello.  I continue to provide Play, Filial(CPRT) and SandPlay Therapies and since 2000 have learned Attachment Therapy.  What valuable resources and mentors IDAPT has!! And what a great new Website! Because of all our efforts, our initial hopes and dreams have been surpassed.

Many thanks to everyone; affectionately, Barb