Edel Lawlor recognised in Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise Europe
Tralee business woman, Edel Lawlor, known for her impressive rise to prominence as one of the worlds leading child psychotherapists and play therapy specialists, has recently been recognised as one of the top 100 Women in Social Enterprise in Europe 2022. Edel founded Expressive Play which is a child and adolescent therapy centre and together with over 20 years of experience in addition to her MA in Psychotherapy and Play therapy, Edel has worked hard over the years to get where she is today. We sat with Edel to chat with her, reflecting back on her career and to get some valuable advice for parents who might feel they are at a cross roads in their relationships with their children.
Edel, firstly congratulations on achieving this recognition. When you think back to when you started out on this journey, could you have foreseen the success?
When I found out I was included in the Top 100 I was absolutely delighted and honoured. I think more so the fact that all the women that made it into the final 100 all have incredible journeys and stories behind them. It’s an award that is really all about celebrating women that succeeded against all odds and I believe I have done exactly that. I was an early school leaver, I didn’t do the typical journey into college so my path to education would have been quite different being a young mother. I have now been working with children and their parents for over 23 years and have based myself here in Kilflynn. In addition to this most recent accolade, I was also recognised as one of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Europe, something I was very proud of. Looking back, I am delighted with how far my business and career have come. I am also now teaching all over the world in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Dubai, something I would never have imagined before so I do feel very privileged.
When did you and your family start to realise for yourself just where your career was taking you and your business?
I think my reputation was growing over the years and for me, people had seen what I was capable of before I ever saw it for myself. For example, back in 2018 there were 14 people picked from across the world to go to a forum to discuss play therapy in which I was selected to represent Ireland. It really felt at that moment I could see how my success had grown. For years my focus has been working towards giving play therapy a platform, recognising the importance of children’s mental health and well-being. I wanted to remove the stigma around play therapy and similar supports. I wanted parents to know that if they are worried about their child, it’s okay to reach out to a play therapist or a child and adolescent psychotherapist. So I had been pushing for that change for years and of course it is hard do all that while being a mom and running a business, going to college. But I am fortunate in the way that what I work at actually has huge benefits for me and my family, I’ve always been a very playful mom, very tuned into the importance of play with children. Of course it has downsides but I think mostly my work has blended very well with my family life. I have been so lucky with family support, my Mother has been a huge influence in my life always ready to support me when I needed it. I was also thankfully blessed with the best childminder in the world, Rita.
Over the span of your career, have you seen a shift in the recognition of child and adolescent mental health services, perhaps a lifting of the inherent stigma?
When I look back to when I first set up my business, people were questioning do children even need therapy? There was such a strong stigma surrounding it and people really believed that children just get over things, that they are resilient. But of course we now know that’s not true, we recognise now that they do need support and its okay for them to get support. Thankfully though it has become more positive to talk to children about mental health, especially in a world where we now have more screen time and social media use than ever before. I’m not saying there should be no screen time but there needs to be a connection and more communication from parent and child. But what I do tell parents is that there is no such thing as a perfect parent and if I ever meet one, I will write a book about them! Its just so important, for the child’s benefit, that parents realise it’s okay to just be a good enough parent. Sometimes parents just need to hear that they are doing a good job with their child and to know that play therapy is there as an option. For example, children don’t always avail of play therapy just because they are going through trauma, it can be for reasons such as a phobia of bee’s or dog’s and even social anxiety. It can be particularly beneficial for children who have been impacted by an illness diagnosis within the family such as cancer, I have been very privileged with working alongside Recovery Haven in that capacity. So in that respect, there is definitely a different view around supports for children and much more in place now.
Finally, Edel, what does 2022 have in store for you and your business?
Going forward, the rest of 2022 is pretty full! I have been invited to Saudi Arabia to help set up a clinic over there in conjunction with all of the work I have been doing online. My goal is to write a book, whether it gets done this year or not I wont pressure myself! Before I finish I just want to say that yes, I have achieved a lot over the years with my business and winning awards, but for me, all I want is that parents really understand that being good enough is enough. If they stop striving for this perfect parent model and just being happy with being good enough, things will get easier. There are 4 play therapists working from Expressive now, which is wonderful to work along the other ladies Liz, Maria and my daughter Clodagh, we are all very excited to see what the future holds for expressive play! Given my line of work, I am a huge advocate for self-care for myself and my team. For me personally, I love spending time with my family, I have discovered open water swimming and it’s something me and my girls do together. I have a deep love for Kerry so spend a lot of time discovering the kingdom and new beaches, cafes and restaurants.
For more information visit Expressive Play Therapy on both Instagram and Facebook