OXFORD, Miss. – Lacy Crumrine has been fascinated with play therapy since she benefitted from it as a child, and the Tupelo native is on the verge of writing a dissertation on the subject and becoming a registered play therapist.
Crumrine, the October Education Student of the Month at the University of Mississippi, received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Mississippi State University before coming to Ole Miss in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree and doctorate in counseling at the School of Education, the state’s largest training institution for educational leaders.
“I never gave up my passion for teaching,” she said. “Halfway through my master’s program, I decided to earn a Ph.D. As a counselor, you learn that you can only help so many people. But with teaching others how to help people, I can help so many more.”
In August, she received her licensed professional counselor credential from the state. She’s also certified as a counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors.
Crumrine was nominated by mentor Marilyn Snow, associate professor of counselor education and director of the Child Advocacy Play Therapy Institute, or CAPTI, at Ole Miss. While developing the center, Snow invited Crumrine to join her staff. In the last year, the institute has become an approved center for play therapy education by the Association for Play Therapy and is the nation’s first institution to offer a play therapy degree.
“Through her years as a student in our counselor education program, she has been dedicated to learning to be the very best professional counselor,” Snow said. “Her passion for helping children will benefit an immeasurable number of children in the future.”
As a child, Crumrine was helped through play therapy when she encountered a parental transition in her life. Her stepfather was entering into her life after she and her mother had lived alone for five years. Her third-grade teacher recognized Crumrine’s anxiety and recommended that she be sent to a play therapy counselor to help her understand this parental role change.
The experience helped Crumrine decide which route she wanted to take in her career.
“I don’t remember working on anything with the counselor,” Crumrine said. “I just remember I had a lot of fun going there once a week and playing with her. After a while, I felt better about what was going on and I got better. As a child, I wasn’t able to see that play therapy is what helped me, but as an adult, I can see the effects now.”
At CAPTI, counselors meet with nearly 50 children each week in 45-minute sessions. They begin by telling the children that they can say and do whatever they want in the playroom and offer them a range of toys so they can express themselves better. Themes in play can range from nurturing to aggression and art.
A scheduled move from Guyton Hall to Insight Park on the UM campus this fall will double the institute’s capacity to help children and their families.
“Children don’t always have the language or the understanding to say what’s wrong,” Crumrine said. “We watch the children and usually they will play out what is happening to them; that’s the only way they can express themselves. If a girl wants to sword-fight, she can, instead of play with dolls, or if a boy wants to play dress up, they can. It’s a free environment where they can do anything short of hurt themselves or others.”
Crumrine is finishing her dissertation and completing the required supervised hours to become a registered play therapist by the Association for Play Therapy. She said she hopes to eventually work at an institute like CAPTI and teach.
“I would like to teach counselors in play therapy as well as offer it to children,” she said. “This is my dream job and I want to work wherever I can bring this passion of mine to life.”