More often than not, the story about how someone figured out what they want to do—with their life or their career—is quite interesting. When a person is passionate about what they do, the “how I got to where I am” can even be inspiring.
For Amanda Husted, a graduate student and teaching assistant in the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, her “how I got into this” story is anything but boring.
It was fall of 2017 on South Dakota State University’s campus, and Husted was a declared pre-pharmacy major. She enjoyed her human development classes that she was taking as part of her minor but didn’t know what she could do with that. She did know the pharmacy route was not “her journey.”
At the same time, Husted started the university’s student-led Down the Rabbit Hole: Conspiracy Theory Club.
“That was very fun for me,” Husted said, recalling this was at a time when conspiracies were much less serious.
SDSU’s student newspaper, the Collegian, wrote a story on the Conspiracy Theory Club, which prompted Husted to pick up a few editions. Just below the article about the club, she noticed a story on the new play therapy classes the university was starting to offer.
“Play therapy,” Husted thought to herself. “What is that?”
Her curiosity spiked immediately, and Husted began researching what play therapy was and how she could get involved.
“I always knew I wanted to work with kids but didn’t really know what it would look like,” Husted explained. “Play therapy was perfect for me because it brought in those human development classes, which I really liked, and allowed me to work with kids.”
Once Husted began taking classes, it affirmed that this was the career for her.
“I think what I loved about my classes was learning a whole new way to communicate, like communicating through play,” Husted said. “We don’t ‘play’ as adults, so learning how to find that play and communicate was really cool.”
Play therapy is—in simple terms—a child’s form of therapy. Staci Born, an associate professor in the School of Education, Counseling and Human Development and supervisor and leader of the play therapy program at SDSU, explains play therapy as a “therapeutic modality for supporting children using play.”
Since 2016, SDSU has been a leader in play therapy education. It is home to the Institute of Play Therapy Education, which has been approved by the Association for Play Therapy—the national professional society for the field—as a center for education, research and training. SDSU’s center is unique to the region and was the first center in the state approved by APT.
Husted enjoyed her play therapy-specific courses and learning from Born, who is considered a leader in play therapy education in the U.S.
“Amanda demonstrated an interest in helping young children and their families during her undergraduate studies. She could see how impactful supporting children and their families really could be,” Born said. “On top of that, Amanda aspires to support rural children and families where qualified play therapy services can be so sparse and in incredibly high demand. Amanda’s knowledge, drive and passion to practice play therapy will serve her future community so well.”
Husted graduated with an undergraduate degree in human development and family studies in 2020 and began pursuing a graduate degree after being accepted into grad school.
This summer, Husted began an internship at Brookings Behavioral Health and Wellness, where she got hands-on experience in her field. Originally from Glencoe, Minnesota, Husted wanted to spend as much time in Brookings as she could this summer, so the internship was a perfect fit for her.
“I love Brookings,” Husted said. “I knew that if I could stay in the area, I just felt compelled to stay and be a part of Brookings for a little bit longer.”
The internship has continued into the fall, and each week, Husted sees kids between the ages of 3 and 13, providing them with play therapy service in her office, filled with toys, arts and crafts, and other things that allow children to express themselves.
“My dollhouse gets used a lot,” Husted said.
She also spends time in local elementary schools, providing play therapy services to children at Dakota Prairie, Hillcrest and Medary three days a week. For 30 minutes at a time, Husted will help students work through some of their emotions.
“Play therapy provides a great opportunity for children to explore their world, process things that have happened, and learn about their emotions,” Husted said. “It has been wonderful to see the difference that play therapy can make for children and families.”
Currently, Husted is wrapping up her final semester of courses while continuing her internship with Brookings Behavioral. She is scheduled to graduate in December with a master’s degree in marriage, family counseling and will also be completing her certification in play therapy.
Husted also attended the APT’s annual international conference this October in St. Louis, Missouri. She attended last year’s conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, and said it was a very positive experience that helped with her own play therapy education.
After graduating, Husted aspires to be a fully licensed play therapist working with children and young families.
“I think right now I’m definitely more driven toward community mental health,” Husted explained, “just because I feel like that is where there is such a need right now.”
As for the Conspiracy Theory Club, Husted is no longer involved, but she does appreciate that the club is still going strong. But what was Husted’s favorite conspiracy theory?
“The moon landing,” Husted said, joking that the shadows don’t line up and the flag is blowing—despite their being no wind on the mood.
Does Husted actually believe in this conspiracy?
“No,” Husted laughed. “I just love how silly it is.”