Anne Stewart Award Recipients

The Anne Stewart Award is given in honor of our former President, APT Board member, and amazing play therapist. To be recognized with this prestigious award, one must have contributed to the field of play therapy for over 10 years, promote the mission and values of VAPT, provide play therapy training and supervision to advance play therapy, and increase membership to strengthen the presence of VAPT.

2024 Winner

Stephanie Pratola, PhD, RPT-S

Stephanie was a charter member when Anne began the Virginia branch of APT. She was the first RPT-S™ in Southwestern Virginia, and she started the local group of children’s mental health professionals, which continues 30+ years later. She believed that children’s mental health professionals needed specialized trainings, support and social opportunities, which would benefit the professionals and therefore the families they served. Stephanie is an idea person, who also takes action. She sought grants and created substantial learning opportunities to spread the importance of play while strengthening our play therapy community. Stephanie has always had a heart for sharing the serious work of play, whether in interdisciplinary hospital staff meetings, local news reports or even her annual July 4th neighborhood parade for kids. She’s the one who often starts the Congo line at conferences, hosts a drum circle to honor someone or creates a sandtray group to respond to local needs. Stephanie shared her enthusiasm, wisdom and magic during supervision, consultation and trainings over several decades. A few years ago, she closed her private practice to check off a bucket list goal of training and supervising child psychiatry fellows–the next generations of doctors who now have experience with the power of play with their young clients. When her RPT-S was recently about to expire, she decided not let that part of her identity go, as she wanted to continue to offer sand tray trainings. Stephanie currently provides consultation to Roanoke’s Center for Grief and Healing and leads SoulCollage groups, which could be described as a version of expressive play.  Recently, Stephanie enthusiastically participated in the APT mentoring program in which she was matched with and enjoyed regular connection with a play therapist, who is new in the field. She continues to engage and inspire!

2023 Winner

Sheri Mitschelen, LCSW, RPT-S

Sheri is an extremely productive and effective promoter of play therapy throughout Virginia, the US and the globe. She started a group play therapy practice, Crossroads Family Counseling Center, in 2009 to expand the reach of her passion for serving children, and she continues to serve the community through this capacity, as well as her new non-profit counseling center Heartleaf. Sheri has also taught several college and graduate classes specific to play therapy. She has been an APT-approved provider for 9 years and created a play therapy training program that offers consistent play therapy continuing education opportunities. One of her most exciting projects is providing training for a play therapy program in Hong Kong since 2020.

Sheri was the President of the Virginia Association for Play Therapy from 2017 to 2022. During her tenure she continued to expand her impact on the field of play therapy. She worked hard to develop a strong, committed group of Board Members, recruiting new participants with innovative ideas and energy. She led our group to create and expand committees, to adapt to online play therapy outreach, networking, and training, and to keep our members connected and up to date with current play therapy practices.

Past Recipients

2022: Lisa M. Wright, MSW, LCSW, RPT-S

2021: Maureen Ritter, LPC, RPT-S

2020: Barbara Smith, LCSW, RPT-S

2019: Melissa Hays-Smith, LCSW, RPT-S