the Child’s Play Qld team

please contact us to discuss how we can assist you
Eliza Vassallo
A person's a person, no matter how small.

- Dr. Seuss

Eliza Vassallo

Director/Co-Founder

The desire to set up Child’s Play Qld came about through my own professional and personal experiences. I was always drawn to the practice of helping people and listening to people’s stories. I genuinely believe that every individual has a story to be told, a story to be heard and their own unique journey to walk. My love for working with children developed early in my career. The things that I loved so much about working with children and families, was that most often, children go through the counselling process being highly motivated to work together with the therapist to achieve positive outcomes. Additionally, once I was introduced to the creative elements of therapy and how these could be utilised in a therapeutic setting, I was completely convinced that this framework aligned with my values and my approach to counselling. Play Therapy allows children to change the way they think about, feel toward, and resolve their concerns (Kaugars & Russ, 2001).

Deciding to establish Child’s Play Qld (2012), as a charity is something that I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to do. I have so much compassion for children and young people, and I recognise that unfortunately mental health support is something that is sadly out of reach for some families due to financial restraints. After working as a psychologist with families in situations of financial hardship, I began to feel disillusioned by these barriers to wellness. My drive to set up an affordable service for families, was one that was obvious to me. I have been extremely fortunate for the ongoing support of GRT Lawyers, who continue to help Child’s Play Qld financially. I also continue to be humbled by the donations and outpouring of support that our community have provided to us along the way.

Our team at Child’s Play Qld, is one of the things that I am most proud of. In fact, most of our team, have been working together at Child’s Play Qld, for many years. What unites us, is that our values are aligned with the mission of our practice. We receive so much support from one another and in turn have a great culture of trust and comradery. I am confident in each member of the team in being able to provide the highest quality mental health support, compassion, and motivation, to support you and your family through your counselling experience.

My current role as Managing Director of Child’s Play Qld is to manage and support the psychologists within the clinic, to ensure that Child’s Play Qld’s mission is always maintained. Additionally, I really enjoy coordinating and planning fundraising events, to raise the much-needed funds to help the clinic continue to offer affordable sessions to children and families.

We hope to secure enough funding, to one day enable us to fulfill our long term vision, which is; that all children, regardless of their family’s situation, will be able to come to Child’s Play Qld and receive FREE counselling. Please note, that this is NOT currently available, but it is our vision for the future, which we hope to achieve through fundraising and sponsorship. The money that we raise in the future, is to ensure that no child misses out on receiving the support that they not only deserve, but very seriously need.

Our even bigger vision is that the stigma associated with mental health is removed from society and that instead of shying away from the issues of mental health support, we embrace it and become more vocal and honest as a society, about the struggles that we all face and deal with every day.

Jade Maurer
For a child, it is in the simplicity of play that the complexity of life is sorted, like puzzle pieces joined together to make sense of the world.

- L.R.Knost

Jade Maurer

Clinical Psychologist

Hi, my name is Jade. I am a Clinical Psychologist, and I have been supporting children, adolescents and their families at Child’s Play Qld since 2014.

I appreciate the opportunity to learn about a child’s unique story, strengths and challenges and recognise the importance of working with each child in a tailored way. I like to create a comfortable and easy working relationship, by engaging with children in a warm, gentle and humorous way. I utilise play-based and creative approaches because I believe children respond best to treatment when they enjoy their sessions, and use their own ideas and imaginations to process their emotions and to connect with the skills they are learning.

I very much value supporting families long-term, with many children and families choosing to reconnect with me over the years as new challenges arise and their needs change. I have loved watching and supporting these children in their transition into adolescence and even into adulthood during my time with Child’s Play Qld.

With two little boys of my own, I recognise parents as the experts on their own children. I enjoy supporting parents to find workable solutions to family challenges. Solutions which align with a parents values, help them to enjoy their roles as mums or dads, and promote the parent-child relationship.

I also provide professional supervision and maintain STAP-accreditation.

Annika Jonsdottir
Come, my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world.

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Annika Jonsdottir

Psychologist

Hello, I’m Annika. I have been working at Child’s Play Qld since December 2015, after completing my Masters in Educational and Developmental Psychology. I joined Child’s Play Qld because I was interested in working in a warm and welcoming practice that would support me and the clients that I see. My preference as a clinician is to see the people I work with wholly, not just as their struggles but also their strengths, joys and passions. I believe that when people commit to therapy, they have the power to change. I offer a calm, kind, grounded presence and a confidence in my knowledge and abilities to help people. I have great respect for my clients, no matter their age or their situation.

My passions as a psychologist are attachment, the power of listening and empathy, and connecting with people on their level and through the things that are meaningful to them. To this end I love engaging with children and adolescents with art, play and video games and with adults on whatever is important to them. I am also a trained Circle of Security Facilitator and enjoy running the Circle of Security 8-week parenting group, allowing me the opportunity to assist parents in improving their relationships with their children.

I am trained in a range of different therapy models and I practice from an eclectic stance, incorporating the most useful aspects of the different therapies into an individualised treatment for each person, couple, or family. Some of my most used therapeutic models are;

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Art therapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Play therapy

I have worked with a great range of clients with many different concerns and I especially enjoy working with children, adolescents, parents, and couples. I often work with those struggling with anxiety, mood disorders, concentration and focus, grief and loss, self-organisation, body image concerns, relationship concerns and chronic pain and illnesses. I also work with many people on the autism spectrum and find that my own interests often align very well with young people on the spectrum.

Dr Felicity West
Science is how we solve problems but art is how we cope with them.

- David Zinn, professional chalk artist

Dr Felicity West

Psychologist

Thank you for taking the time to read about me. I love meeting new people and look forward to helping you in any way I can.

I am a friendly, fun, and vibrant person. I approach therapy with a curious and open heart, and plenty of humour. One of my favourite maxims is “you don’t have to be serious to solve serious problems”. I celebrate uniqueness and diversity. Quirky is always welcome!

I honour each person’s unique view of the world. I take time to get to know a child and their family in order to understand how these vital relationships have evolved and influence one another. I recognise that significant and lasting change is rarely possible without a shift in family dynamics. For this reason, I work directly with children as well as their parents.

Parenting may be the most fulfilling job in the world, but it is also one of the most challenging. As an enthusiastic mother to two equally contrary and delightful children, I know firsthand what it’s like to juggle competing demands. I sometimes find that the joy of parenting gets buried under mountains of housework and impossible to-do lists. I am passionate about reducing parenting stress and cultivating more joy in family life.

It takes courage to admit that you are struggling or to ask for help when you get stuck or are out of ideas. I aim to create a safe place for parents to talk about their challenges and find practical solutions. As a psychologist, I have specialist training in human cognition, emotions, and behaviour. I help parents work out why their children behave the way they do, what needs children communicate through their behaviour, and how best to meet these needs.

The parent child relationship lays the foundation for a child’s personality, behavioural patterns, and life choices. I assist parents to build warm loving relationships with their children, to listen with empathy and respect, to set boundaries, and to collaborate in resolving problems.

I recognise that children perceive, think about, and interact with their world in very different ways to adults. For example, they do not make the same distinction between fantasy and reality, and are concrete (rather than abstract) thinkers. I love tapping into children’s imagination and playfulness in finding solutions to problems they face. I use a range of creative activities (e.g. painting, drawing, writing, talking, singing, dancing, making music, drama, puppets, sandtray, science experiments, and games) to help children express and cope with feelings, and explore new ideas and new ways of being.

I draw on many theoretical influences and therapeutic approaches including art therapy, narrative therapy, mindfulness, relaxation training, parent training, acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. I help parents with everyday child rearing issues like sleep concerns, toileting problems, separation anxiety, worries and fears, friendship issues, defiance, and sibling rivalry. I also support children experiencing bullying, anxiety, depression, self-harm, anger, aggression, family separation and divorce, as well as those diagnosed with ADHD, autism, or other conditions that affect social emotional functioning. I work with children of all ages, but pre-schoolers and primary schoolers are my favourites. My special interests include school readiness, grief and loss, trauma, gender and sexuality.

Peggy Wong
With intellectual curiosity the world will always be full of magic and wonder.

- Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Peggy Wong

Psychologist

Hello, I am Peggy. I am pleased to introduce myself as one of Child’s Play Qld psychologists. I joined Child’s Play Qld in 2015 because I was attracted to its client-centred focus and warm and supportive environment. My professional journey started in the United States of America where I worked as a School Psychologist for five years after obtaining my Masters in School Counselling and Psychology. I then worked in a QLD based non-profit organisation specialising in providing early intervention for children with autism before moving into private practise.

I have worked with a wide range of clients with a variety of challenges including:

  • ASD/Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression, Self-harm and Suicide risk
  • Adjustment Disorders
  • Women’s health
  • Resilience and self  esteem
  • Grief and bereavement
  • Bullying and school refusal
  • Low self-esteem and resilience
  • Emotional regulation difficulties
  • Learning difficulties or giftedness
  • Behavioural difficulties
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Social challenges

I love working with children as I love hearing their stories and discovering their strengths and passions through the counselling process. I employ a creative and playful approach that makes counselling treatment meaningful to children. I am a down to earth therapist who is warm, gentle, and caring. My counselling style draws from cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy, and solution-focused therapy.

Katherine De Maria
To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.

- Dr. Seuss

Katherine De Maria

Clinical Psychologist

As a Clinical Psychologist, I aim to provide a safe and supportive environment where I seek to help my clients articulate their experiences and emotions, understand the nature of their challenges, and to collaboratively develop meaningful treatment strategies.

My approach to therapy is to be compassionate, gentle and curious. I like to be present in the moment for my clients, whilst gently challenging them to in turn, be curious about themselves and mindfully consider their experiences. I believe that the individual knows themselves best and value the insights my clients have, and I provide a safe space to encourage and explore self-reflection. In this setting I can help with anxiety, panic attacks and phobias; depression; stress and coping; autism spectrum disorder and NDIS; eating disorders; trauma, grief, loss and adjustment to life changes.

My clients can be confident in receiving high quality, evidence-based service. This includes the use of treatment principles such as cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, attachment theory, trauma-informed therapy, compassion focussed therapy, creative therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy.

I have broad experience working with clients of all ages, and am particularly drawn to working creatively with children, adolescents, young adults and their families. I also work collaboratively with parents to help support the development of secure attachments with their children using the Circle of Security framework.

I am passionate about Animal Assisted Therapy and work creatively with my therapy dog Charlie. If you would like to him to be part of our session, please let us know.

Samantha Archer
For a child or an adult, it’s extremely powerful to hear someone say, “I get you. I understand. I see why you feel this way.” This kind of empathy disarms us.

- Daniel J. Siegel

Samantha Archer

Psychologist

I was initially drawn to psychology out of an interest in the mind and a strong desire to help others to understand and work through the difficulties they are facing. Through my studies and personal experience as a parent, this interest has expanded to incorporate attachment theory and interpersonal neurobiology to provide practical parenting support. I am a proud mother of two energetic girls. I can relate to the challenges that working parent’s face when navigating the ‘balance’ between these two roles, which is why I am passionate about supporting caregivers to build secure relationships with their children through the use of the Circle of Security (COS) framework. I enjoy working collaboratively with parents to improve their relationship with their children.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to gain experience across a wide array of settings including Private practice, occupational rehabilitation, paediatric outpatient clinic, secondary schools, community settings and not-for-profit organisations. I am interested in the individual and the context in which they work, play, and learn within.

I present as a warm and approachable Psychologist, with a playful approach to therapy, which I tailor to meet the unique needs of each of my clients. I enjoy working with children, adolescents and adults presenting with a range of psychological difficulties to increase their wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Therapies that I utilise, are drawn from current evidence-based research, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Feedback-Informed Therapy and Solution-Focused Therapy. I have also completed the 3-day COS sensitivity training, 10-day intensive COS training and am a registered Circle of Security Parenting (COS-P, DVD) facilitator.

Vicki Steel
Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.

- Pema Chodron

Vicki Steel

Psychologist

I am a down to earth, empathetic therapist who likes to ensure clients and families feel at ease in session. I take a collaborative approach to working with you toward your desired goals using evidence-based therapies, including: play therapy for younger clients, cognitive behavioural therapy, compassion focused therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, schema therapy, and dialectical behavioural therapy. I will also regularly check if you are finding sessions helpful as it is important to me that we have a joint understanding of your concerns and experiences, the strategies we will use, your goals, and whether our time together feels supportive and on-track.

When working with children I enjoy incorporating games and creative activities into therapy to help them feel comfortable, safe and empowered. This in turn can help grow their confidence, develop a sense of pride and self-belief.

I work with children, teens and adults and my areas of interest include:

  • Neurodevelopmental conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorders and ADHD
  • Parenting
  • Behaviour management
  • Anxiety, panic attacks and phobias
  • Depression
  • Grief, loss and adjustment to life changes
  • Interpersonal issues and social skills
  • Bullying, including cyber-bullying
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Perfectionism
  • Domestic and family violence
Alicia Windon
It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

- Albus Dumbledore (fictional character from the Harry Potter series)

Alicia Windon

Psychologist

Hello, I’m Alicia. As a psychologist I am compassionate, empathetic, and warm. I have a strong goal orientation and an innovative focus. I have a passion for working with children and their families. The therapist-client relationship is so important and is a large contributing factor to the success of reaching therapy goals. My priority when working with an individual is to make them feel calm and connected, particularly those that are reluctant or nervous to attend therapy. I find the most rewarding part of working with families is being a part of a child’s transformation, seeing them build their confidence in overcoming their difficulties and achieving their goals. It fills me with joy when a family has been able to work through their presenting concerns. I also really enjoy learning about a child or family’s interests and hobbies and try to adapt those interests within the therapy.

I have a background in mental health case management and during my time in this role, I worked extensively with families in generational poverty who presented with traumatic and emotionally distressing situations. This experience helped me deeply understand the importance of providing a non-judgmental empathetic space for families to explore and reflect on life choices, emotional experiences and how to move forward positively in their life journey. Therefore, my preferred approach to therapy utilises a systemic ‘big picture’ framework. A child’s behaviours are explored by looking at larger systems that influence the child, such as: family, school, community and culture. I also believe that every individual is the expert in their own life, and through the therapeutic relationship we can build other strategies onto the foundational skills, they already possess.

I have experience working in schools, including behaviour and special schools, NSW Health and private practices. I also have experience working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as well as refugee populations. I am mindful of the ongoing trauma and cultural sensitives that surround these communities. I am a trained facilitator in the evidenced based programs; RAGE, Managing the Bull and Drumbeats and have successfully run many of these programs with positive outcomes. My therapeutic toolkit includes a broad range of evidenced based approaches, including Systemic Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Strengths Based Therapies, Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Play-Based Therapies and Mindfulness. To get the most out of limited sessions, I use a child centred direct approach to meet therapy goals and continue to check in on the child’s progress with the family.

I work predominantly with younger children, adolescents and families to support the children in their lives, in the following areas;

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Emotional regulation skills development
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • ADHD
  • Anger and Aggression
  • Behavioual difficulties
  • Self-harm
  • Social skills
  • Self-esteem and confidence building skills
  • Issues relating to bullying and social isolation
  • Trauma
  • Parenting
  • School refusal
  • Sensory regulation

When I’m not providing therapy, care and support to my clients, I enjoy going to concerts (the louder the better) and the beach. I love travelling to far away lands, eating specialty cheeses, and advocating for animal rights. In my down time you’ll find me curled up with my cat and dogs watching a Disney movie.

Kalyn Anderson
Every flower blooms at a different pace.

- Suzy Kassem

Kalyn Anderson

Practice Manager

I joined the Child’s Play Qld team in the role of Practice Manager in December 2016, bringing over 10 years’ experience in the Allied Health Industry to the clinic.

I find it very rewarding to be part of such a professional, dedicated and supportive team and enjoy being able to assist our clients and oversee the smooth running of the clinic. My aim is to ensure that clients and their families find Child’s Play Qld to be a supportive, friendly and caring environment to be in. I love getting to know our families and being part in their journey at Child’s Play Qld.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of Child’s Play Qld’s fundraising activities and am always ready to lend a helping hand to support and promote mental health services in our community.

Frankie

Animal Assisted Therapy Dog

Frankie is a miniature Cavoodle. He was born on the 4th of January 2016 and is a regular staff member at Child’s Play Qld. Frankie is trained as a therapy dog, through Therapy Dogs Australia. He can help to facilitate the therapeutic interaction between the child and their psychologist. Frankie makes regular appearances to welcome children and families into the clinic. With consultation from your child’s psychologist, Frankie can be available to attend therapy sessions to enhance therapeutic outcomes. If you are interested in having Frankie a part of your child’s counselling experience, please discuss this with your psychologist, and we will do our best to accommodate your request. Being a therapy dog can be tiring for Frankie, and as such, he is only available for limited hours at Child’s Play Qld.

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