Child Life Services

Expressive Therapies

Nearly all kids love to play music, draw, paint and mess with clay. During play, art or music, a child has control over how things happen. She even has the power to say, “No, I don’t want to use that color,” or “No, I don’t want to play the drum.”

At Dell Children’s Medical Center, we identify these very normal activities as expressive. We understand that children very naturally express themselves through their play, through their responses in active music making, and through their creation of a piece of art.

We have highly trained professionals who facilitate opportunities for children to engage in this very normal form of expression. Our music therapist, play therapist, and art therapist create a safe and non-threatening place for children to express themselves in relation to their illness or trauma. Some of the key goals of expressive therapy are:

  1. Support the child and the family
  2. Allow the child to be a kid in a very unfamiliar and frightening environment
  3. Provide tools for the child to process the hospital experience and his or her diagnosis
  4. Help the child reduce stress and anxiety through self-expression

Expressive therapy services are a natural fit for family-centered care, because the interventions used are based upon things that are familiar and normal to kids and families. Here is more information about our art, music and play therapy services.

Our Team

Della Molloy-Daugherty, Ph.D., MT-BC

Della-Molloy-DaughertyDella is a Board-Certified Music Therapist. She has 21 years of clinical experience in acute neurological rehabilitation, burn rehabilitation, higher education and with children who have blindness or severe visual impairment and additional disabilities. Della has worked at Dell Children’s since February 2014.

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Elizabeth Hendley, MA, ATR-BC

Elizabeth-HendleyA Registered Art Therapist for over 11 years, Elizabeth has worked in schools, adult psychiatric settings and hospitals in New York and Austin. Elizabeth spearheaded the Expressive Therapies program at Dell 8 years ago by volunteering her services until philanthropic funding was provided for the part-time position she has held since November 2008.

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Crystal Wilkins, M.Ed., LPC, RPT

Crystal-WilkinsCrystal is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist who began working at Dell Children’s in July 2015. Prior to that, Crystal worked for 12 years as a Child Life Specialist at various hospitals in Texas. In additional to her hospital work, she has completed licensing hours at a Montessori school and in private practice.

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Merri Isom

Merri-IsomMerri has been an art therapy intern at Dell Children’s since January 2015. She has previous art therapy internship experience with adolescents in middle schools. She has volunteered at Hospice Austin, and with teenage mothers and children at Austin Children’s Shelter. Merri will be finishing her internship at the end of December 2015.

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Art Therapy

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a service provided to patients and their families to encourage expression of thoughts and feelings through artmaking. This service is facilitated by a registered art therapist.

What does the art therapist do?

The art therapist on staff offers a wide variety of art materials for patients and families to explore, including but not limited to:

  • Model Magic
  • Paint (watercolors, acrylic)
  • Drawing Materials (watercolor pencils, oil pastels, markers, black “scratch art”)
  • Collage and scrapbooking materials
  • Many types of paper (colored construction/cardstock, drawing, watercolor, scrapbook, tissue, etc.)

Children’s Art Gallery

In addition to therapeutic art-making, some children benefit from the opportunity to display their artwork. The art therapist maintains a patient art gallery, located on 4 North facing the courtyard. Patients are given the opportunity to submit artwork, with written consent, to the art therapist to be considered for display. Abstract and representational, these works often tell a story, express an emotion, or simply represent an exploration of color and space. Artwork will remain in the gallery for 6 months.

Music Therapy

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is a service that provides children with the opportunity to use music as a way to cope with hospitalization. This service is provided by a board-certified music therapist.

What does the music therapist do?

The music therapist on staff involves children in a variety of music experiences including:

  • Instrument playing
  • Singing
  • Music improvisation
  • Movement to music
  • Music games
  • Song writing

The music therapist individually designs each session to meet the child’s needs. Sessions can be individual or include family members.

Group Sessions

In addition to in-room visits, the music therapist conducts music groups in the 3 North playroom. Patients, siblings, and parents are invited to attend. The music therapist leads the group in drumming, singing, dancing, and a lot of fun!

Play Therapy

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy gives children the opportunity to express feelings and difficulties to a trained play therapist. Just as adults have the ability to talk about their problems and concerns, children naturally use play to communicate confusion and stress in their world. Through working with a registered play therapist, children can better develop skills to cope with illness and hospitalization.

What does the play therapist do?

The play therapist on staff provides a safe environment for children to express their feelings and gain a sense of control to better cope with medical experiences. Services include:

  • Individual play sessions in the play therapy room
  • Individual play sessions in the patient’s room
  • Group and sibling play sessions
  • Parent-child relationship training groups

Art therapy, music therapy, and play therapy sessions can be conducted individually or can involve family members depending on the needs of the child.