Welcome to the Center for Play Therapy!
We are dedicated to enriching the lives of children through providing quality training to play therapists, conducting rigorous research on the process and effectiveness of play therapy, disseminating play therapy literature from across the world, and facilitating play therapy services for children, parents, and systemic partners. I am honored to serve as director of the Center for Play Therapy and believe wholeheartedly in our mission to advocate for the needs of children through play therapy.
In 1996, I walked into my first play therapy session feeling well-trained but unsure about my ability to facilitate healing or build a therapeutic relationship with a child without the culturally-sanctioned tools of structured teaching activities and ready-to-give directions. In that first play therapy relationship, I learned to trust the child, trust myself, and trust the relationship in our journey toward healing and functioning. And that has been my experience ever since. Through my clinical experiences, I grew in my desire to provide evidence of play therapy outcomes and process which led to a career focus on research and the dissemination of literature that supports the work of play therapists. Quality education for play therapists is of particular importance to me and I am committed to provision of educational opportunities to improve the work of play therapists from all areas of the world. Serving as director of the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas is a privilege and responsibility for which I am immensely appreciative. I am allowed to serve children and those who serve children every day and I cannot think of a better way to live my life than doing what I love best.
So, welcome again to the Center for Play Therapy and please use our resources to enhance your work with children.
Dee and Leslie
Meet Our Staff
The Center for Play Therapy is staffed by counseling department professors, doctoral students, a brilliant office manager, hardworking undergraduate students, and volunteers (who we are very grateful for!). Below are some of the people that keep CPT going strong:
Dee Ray, Ph.D., LPC-S, NCC, RPT-S, Certified CCPT-S, Certified CPRT-S is Regents Professor and Elaine Millikan Mathes Professor in Early Childhood Education in the Counseling Program and Co-Director of the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas. Dr. Ray has published over 150 articles, chapters, and books in the field of play therapy, specializing in research specifically examining the process and effects of Child Centered Play Therapy. Dr. Ray is author of A Therapist’s Guide to Development: The Extraordinarily Normal Years, Advanced Play Therapy: Essential Conditions, Knowledge, and Skills for Child Practice, Child Centered Play Therapy Treatment Manual, and co-author of Multicultural Play Therapy, Group Play Therapy, and Child Centered Play Therapy Research. Most recently, Dr. Ray published her book on education, Playful Education: Using Play Therapy Strategies to Elevate Your Classroom which focuses on the significance of teacher-child relationships in the language of play. She is a founding board member and past president of the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling, as well as current board member of the Association for Play Therapy. She is founding editor of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Counseling, American Counseling Association Fellow, and recipient of the American Counseling Association Don Dinkmeyer Social Interest Award, Association for Humanistic Counseling Educator Award, Association for Play Therapy Outstanding Research Award, Top 25 Women Professors in Texas Award, and many others. Dr. Ray supervises counseling services to community clients at her university clinic and leads a school outreach program providing play therapy to hundreds of children each year. Dr. Ray also co-created and oversees the international certification program for Child-Centered Play Therapy and Child-Parent Relationship Therapy. Dr. Ray additionally operates the counseling practice, EmpathyWell, in Highland Village, TX where she facilitates play therapy, training, and supervision.
Leslie Jones, PhD, LPC-S, RPT, Certified CCPT-S, Certified CPRT-S
Leslie Jones is a Clinical Professor at the University of North Texas. Leslie has over 20 years of play therapy experience including teaching university courses, supervising counselors in training, and working with families and children in both community agency and school settings. She currently teaches courses in play therapy, child appraisal, and expressive arts. Leslie is graduate of the Association for Play Therapy Leadership Academy. She served as President of the Texas Association for Play Therapy and served on the Florida Association for Play Therapy board. Dr. Jones has presented nationally on play therapy and expressive arts. She is actively involved in the international certification program for Child-Centered Play Therapy and Child-Parent Relationship Therapy.
Elizabeth V. Aguilar, M.S., LPC Associate, NCC
Hi, my name is Elizabeth "Eli" Aguilar, and I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Counseling program at the University of North Texas (UNT) specializing in play therapy. I was born and raised in Idaho. I moved to Texas in 2015 to pursue my master's degree in Counseling at UNT and haven't left since. Prior to entering the doctoral program, I worked as a bilingual child and adolescent counselor at a domestic violence agency. I am excited to be a part of the Center for Play Therapy team!
Jenna Taylor, M.A., LPC Associate, NCC
Hi, my name is Jenna Taylor, and I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Counseling Program at the University of North Texas. I was born and raised in Indiana, but have since lived in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas. I received my bachelor's degree in Special Education from Western Kentucky University and my master's degree in Counseling and Play Therapy from the University of North Carolina Charlotte. My clinical and research interests include play therapy and filial therapy, specifically for children with disabilities. I am currently working on my dissertation, a meta-analysis on Child-Centered Play Therapy. I am fortunate to be doing work I love at the Center for Play Therapy!
Krystal K. Turner, M.A., LPC Associate, NCC
Hi Play People! My name is Krystal Turner, and I’m a fourth-year doctoral student in the Counseling Program at the University of North Texas. I obtained my Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. My clinical and research interests focuses on multicultural experiences in Counseling including Play Therapy, CPRT/Filial, and adult therapy. It's not work if you love what you do, and I absolutely love playing with my CPT crew and bringing Play Therapy resources to the world!
Amber-Lea Martinez, M.S., LPC Associate
Hi there! My name is Amber-Lea Martinez, and I’m a third-year doctoral student in the Counseling Program at the University of North Texas. I earned my master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling here at UNT and am so excited to continue my education. I'm specializing in child-centered play therapy, specifically with children who have experienced displacement from their primary caregivers. I'm also passionate about providing support for the adults in these children's lives, including foster parents, biological parents working toward/post- reunification, and other caregivers. I’m so happy to be at the Center for Play Therapy, doing my favorite things with my favorite people!
Stephanie Carr, MA, LPC, LCMHC, NCC
Hi! I’m Stephanie Carr, and I am a second-year doctoral student in the Counseling Program at the University of North Texas. Most of my childhood was spent in California where I was born. I’ve also lived in Texas and North Carolina since then. I received my bachelors degree in Psychology and Child Development from the University of Texas at Dallas and my masters degree in Counseling from Dallas Seminary. My clinical and research interests are focused on play therapy and filial interventions with minority children from adoptive and foster care backgrounds. I’m so excited to be a part of the CPT team this year!
Erin Malcom, MS, NCC
Hello! My name is Erin Malcom and I am a first-year doctoral student in the Counseling program at the University of North Texas. I was born in Michigan but have since moved over 25 times to places all over the world. I have been in Denton for the last two years obtaining my M.S in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I am now in the doctoral program focusing on play therapy, with a particular interest in children with highly-mobile upbringings as well as military family systems. I am so honored to be a member of the CPT team where I get to learn more about this discipline each and every day.
Hi, my name is Gabby. I am happy to be working at the Center for Play Therapy and being involved in changing children's lives! In my free time I enjoy spending time with my dogs, husband, and friends.