when you feel called to be a play therapistRachel Altvater, Psy.D., RPT-S is a Licensed Psychologist in Maryland, Virginia, & Washington, DC and a Registered Play Therapist – Supervisor where she has her own private practice called Creative Psychological Health Services in Catonsville, Maryland where she works with children, teens and families providing play therapy, groups and assessments. Her work at Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, LLC in Fairfax, Virginia allows her opportunity to provide trauma-informed talk and play therapy to children, adolescents, and families.

Dr. Altvater stumbled upon play therapy during her master’s practicum and when she read Helping Abused and Traumatized Children by Dr. Eliana Gil during her placement she was instantly hooked. She truly believes that play therapy is her calling.

When I asked her what the most challenging aspect of providing play therapy in Dr. Altvater said that knowing how to build and manage the business aspect of private practice has been a challenge. She has had numerous support sources along the way including having enrolled in The Play Therapy Practice Building Academy.She said, “I am extremely appreciative of Lynn, Jen, and all the other professionals’ knowledge and passion in this practice building program! This resource is an invaluable support as I navigate starting my play therapy practice. Due to my self-care practices and desire to absorb the information, I am working my way through the Academy slowly. I am eager and excited to see what I will learn along the way.”

When asked what is the most rewarding aspect of being a play therapist, Dr. Altvater said, “Sometimes I think to myself how wonderful it is to be able to help so many hurting humans at a safe place that would not have existed without my vision. It is quite amazing to see a small dream turning into a significant accomplishment.”

I asked Dr. Altvater what advice she has for someone who wants to build a play therapy private practice and she said, “Just go for it! Many times the fear of rejection or failure inhibits people from trying. If we can break out of our comfort zone and take that first step toward reaching our goals, we will surprise ourselves. Each small success gives us more forward momentum. Also, utilize your supports! Building a practice is a large undertaking and can feel confusing and overwhelming. Find people to help you center, give you guidance and support, and assist you in setting more digestible goals. You got this!”

A Little More About Rachel

Dr. Rachel Altvater is a Licensed Psychologist in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, Registered Play Therapist–Supervisor, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. She is the owner of Creative Psychological Health Services, a psychologist at Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education, an affiliate faculty member at Loyola University Maryland, the Continuing Education Director of Starbright Training Institute, and a board member of The MD/DC Association for Play Therapy. Dr. Altvater published two articles in the International Journal of Play Therapy on her research of technology use in play therapy and is a contributing author in Integrating Expressive Arts into Counseling Practice: Theory-Based Interventions(2nded.) and Integrating Technology in Modern Therapies: A Clinician’s Guide to Developments and Interventions. She is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Alumna of the Year from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Washington, D.C. Campus, and the 2018 Outstanding Play Therapy Research Award from the Maryland/DC Association for Play Therapy. You can follow Dr. Altvater on her professional Facebook page.