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Professor Emeritus Establishes Scholarship for Mental Health Professionals

by Carol Best
Dr. Mary Fry, professor of counseling emeritus
Gift will help bolster the number of trained play therapists

In 1998, Dr. Mary Fry, LCPC, RPT-S, wanted to provide new modalities of therapy in her practice as an elementary school counselor. A training course from the “father of play therapy,” Dr. Garry Landreth, set her career path. Since then, she has instructed and supervised hundreds of graduate and post-graduate students in the art and science of play therapy. She has delved into research and has several publications in the field. She was the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Association for Play Therapy (APT) in 2011 and president of the Kansas Association for Play Therapy (KSAPT) in 2005. Fry is truly an expert in play therapy and wholeheartedly endorses its use for children, teens and adults who may be resistant to talk therapy.

Recently, this passion stirred Fry to give a generous gift to MNU by establishing the Dr. Mary Fry Play Therapy Scholarship. Open to all students who qualify for admission to MNU’s program, which she founded, the scholarship will make this certificate affordable for more licensed mental health professionals. Fulfilling all the instructional requirements of APT, graduates then complete supervision with a registered play therapist supervisor (RPT-S).

Fry taught at MNU from 2004 to 2019, retiring as professor emeritus. She says there is a great need for more mental health professionals and specifically, play therapists.

“We are realizing that after the pandemic, there are many hurting people,” says Fry. “They were isolated, needed help, some turned to alcoholism or bad habits. Mental illness manifested. For some children, going to school had been their refuge, and online instruction was difficult. Sometimes their homes were not safe.”

School counselors can be a constant in their school days as children learn how to move through their issues. Fry says their need is real, and play therapy, incorporated into normal therapy, provides another means to reach them.

“For children under 10, play is their language,” Fry says. “A therapist needs to be able to speak the language of the child walking in the room. The toys and other objects in the room can be used to help them get through their pain and emotions.”

Fry adds that unless trained in play therapy, questions arise that can stump the therapist, such as, how to interpret the child’s actions, how to react, and how to assist them in their progress.

Establishing a scholarship fund for students in MNU’s Play Therapy Certificate Program was an obvious choice for Fry.

“Since retiring from teaching, I’ve stayed in the therapy world,” Fry says. She’s in private practice and still provides supervision for play therapy graduates.

“MNU has the best program,” she states. “And when I thought about where I wanted to give at this time in my life, I wanted to give to MNU because I believe in it. I want people to know that I believe enough in that program that I want others to have the opportunities it provides.”
Mary Fry, PhD, LCPC, RPT-S
Professor Emeritus

Why does she think MNU’s program is best? Fry sums it up in three reasons.

• It is taught sequentially with each course building on the one before, allowing students to progress naturally.
• Based on strict guidelines provided by APT, the program incorporates the requirements for credentialing play therapists.
• MNU faculty integrate the latest research into their courses.

Fry says many stellar mental health professionals have continually influenced the academic quality of the Play Therapy Certificate program. In 2009, as more brain research was published, Dr. Rebeca Chow added the Neurology of Play course, and today, current, evidence-based research informs what MNU faculty teach.

“Our students learn to apply play therapy skills in therapy with individuals of various ages and with families, using various theories and modalities and the current neurobiological science behind it,” says Laura Cline Oliva, MS, LPC, who currently coordinates the play therapy certificate program. “This program was among the first to be an APT-approved Play Therapy Center and MNU was the first university to have a play therapy certificate program. Our students can be confident they learn best practices in the field.”

Cline is grateful for all who have come before her in developing this program and for the generous gift that establishes scholarships for aspiring play therapists.

“Dr. Fry is a special lady who deserves all the accolades she has received and more,” Cline says. “She is the reason I joined the program. She continues to leave a legacy. Each time a clinician takes these skills learned in the program, thanks to Mary’s generosity, she is in that therapy room with them.”

For more information on MNU’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Play Therapy, visit If you or someone you know would benefit from Play Therapy, contact MNU’s Community Counseling Center at or call 913-971-3733.

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