Resource support

Bradford Therapy Center providing support for children

Family First Play Therapy Center in Bradford is a community-focused mental health agency that helps put the needs of families first

The Family First Play Therapy Center in Bradford has been helping children and their parents build healthier relationships since 2000.

It represents a space where children and families know they can receive expert care and guidance for healing from attachment, regulation and developmental issues.

“Grief, trauma, loss, attachment, emotional and developmental regulation issues, educational and social challenges are reasons why children and families may need child psychotherapy services,” said owner Lorie Walton.

Child psychotherapists integrate play and artistic activities to help children overcome emotional and developmental challenges. Unlike adults, children often lack the ability or awareness to express their challenges, emotions, or life events through speech.

However, says Walton, children are able to communicate through play these experiences using art, toys, sand and other playful objects.

“Sometimes children will attend a session that includes parents and/or siblings and other times the child will participate one-on-one with just the therapist,” Walton explained.

She noted that every child’s situation is different and will be supported by a solid treatment plan that outlines treatment goals and modalities to support growth and healing.

“Families trying to work through their own challenges can be daunting and tricky at the best of times, but Family First offers support so kids, parents and families don’t have to figure it out on their own,” said Walton.

The team recently expanded to include Dr. Dillon Browne as a supervising psychologist. He supports the psychological services portion of the center.

“Family First now offers psychological and psycho-educational assessments of children conducted by Dr. Browne,” Walton said.

She found that the new service was needed in the community because many children need formal assessments to better determine areas needing support for academic and social-emotional development.

Walton points out that Family First is a private, community-focused children’s mental health agency that puts the needs of families first.

“The rooms are comfortable and welcoming, and children and parents quickly feel at home in its inviting and colorful atmosphere,” she said.

More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Family First learned to offer therapy virtually.

“Now that we’re moving back to lighter protocols, we’re giving clients the option to attend face-to-face sessions or attend virtually,” Walton said.

Starting his own practice in children’s therapy was a dream come true for Walton. With an EPE, BA, BEd and MEd, she has held various teaching positions, including as a special needs resource educator. That’s when she signed up as an intern for play therapy training at the Blue Hills Child and Family Center.

“I was teaching during the day, then rushing off to work with kids and parents doing ‘therapeutic play’ two nights a week,” she said.

Seeing children in these groups gaining confidence and reaching developmental milestones like never before made her want more training in the specialty and gave her the confidence to earn official certification.

After becoming a fully certified play therapist and certified play therapy practitioner in 1999, Walton applied for a year off to start her own play therapy center.

“If I had to do this, I wanted to do it to its fullest potential,” she said.