Before Ofra Obejas became a therapist, she volunteered at a rape crisis center in the mid 2000s. What she saw there changed her forever.
“When I went to their support groups, every one of them had been abused as a child,” Obejas said. “I thought, ‘wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had been there for them when they were a child?’”
Obejas, a Redondo Beach resident, now specializes in child therapy. But her sessions are a far cry from the scenario of the patient lying on a couch, talking endlessly. Instead, she uses toys and games in her practice.
“Let’s say I have a figurine of the tiger and it’s chasing a monkey and the child is showing something, being scared or having powers,” Obejas said. “As a therapist, I see what’s going on and I react with the appropriate emotion. I express what I see happen and I show them to react and how to manage those feelings.”
Obejas, a licensed clinical social worker, received her credential in Play Therapy three years ago, a practice that helps troubled children express their fears and emotions through play. And Obejas took her practice to the next level recently, earning a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor credential from the Association for Play Therapy.
According to Obejas, there are only 4 other supervisors in the South Bay and only 100 total in California and the special credential isn’t easy to get. To qualify, one must have earned a master’s degree, clock 150 hours of play therapy training, give years and 5,000 hours of post-Master’s clinical experience, 500 supervised and 500 additional hours of experience.
Passionate about her work with children, Obejas insisted that play therapy is a delicate form of counseling and the kids themselves may not even be aware of what it is. She says her patients often just know her has “the toy lady” or “the play lady.”
“Kids don’t need to be aware that it is therapy at all,” Obejas said. “I advise parents not to use the word therapy. There’s a preconceived notion that if you go to therapy, you are bad and you have a problem.”
The South Bay resident has had her private practice, Redondo Village Counseling since 2014 but has worked with kids since 2007 and has always had a special interest in working with traumatized children.
“To be able to help children who were abused, you have to know how to provide therapy,” she said.
Obejas specializes in trauma and is now working on getting a supervising credential to be a consultant for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, a treatment for trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.