I started this journey of supporting children and families with grief and loss by volunteering at a children’s hospice for 10 years as a family volunteer and eventually a co-facilitator of grief support groups. During that time, I completed a degree in Psychology at the University of Victoria, a Diploma in Counselling and Human Development, and a Masters of Education in Counselling Psychology from Simon Fraser University.

Dallas Shirley in her Play Therapy Office

Once I graduated, I began working as a family counsellor and children’s counsellor in non-profit organizations. At Chilliwack Hospice Society and Abbotsford Hospice Society, I held the roles of Child and Youth Counsellor and Children’s Services Manager. I also worked for the Abbotsford School District as a grief specialist; helping to support school counsellors.

Throughout this time, I co-facilitate groups for children experiencing anxiety and/or depression, grief, and loss, as well as adult groups focused on strengthening the caregiver-child relationship. Currently, I am the Administrative Coordinator with the BC Play Therapy Association and I facilitate virtual children and family grief groups with Kamloops Hospice Association.

Dallas presenting Woodland Wisdom Books Volume 1 at Abbotsford Hospice Society

Over the years, I have presented for community members, counselling organizations, school districts, and local hospices. To read more about my past speaking engagements click here.

Continuing to engage in new learning as much as possible, I received specialized training in grief and loss through Living Through Loss Society and in play therapy through a dear mentor of mine Marie José Dhaese, who has been doing this work for 45 years and is the creator of the Centre for Expressive Therapy.

I have also had the honor of being supervised by other incredible mentors in this field. I thank them for all that they have taught me and in supporting me in becoming a Registered Clinical Counsellor and BC Registered Play Therapist. Thank you Mel Loncaric, Wayne Wong, Sheila Lindfield, Julie Chadwick, Johanna Simmons and all the amazing colleagues and friends I have met along the way. Through all my learning over the years, my greatest teachers have been the children, youth, and families I have had the great honor of working with.

I regularly attend peer supervision to help provide the people I work with the best support possible. I also regularly attend professional development opportunities on a variety of child counselling approaches. I use a child-centered approach that ends up looking different for each family I work with depending on their unique hopes.

On a mission to help support adults supporting children, I authored a book series called Woodland Wisdom Books. These books are children’s stories and guides for adults to help children navigate difficult issues.

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The 1st volume covers death, grief, and loss. The 2nd is about feelings and how they affect our bodies. The 3rd is about the difference between abuse and anger. To learn more about this book series, click here.

On a personal note, I love nature, snow, rain, delicious foods, and spending time with my loved ones. I am especially fond of wintertime. There is something about the way that season inspires kindness and care that brings a magical feeling to my heart.

On another personal note, the reason I became a children’s counsellor is I grew up really struggling with how to express my feelings in healthy ways. When I was young, I felt like I had little to no self-control when it came to expressing my feelings.

Throughout my years of learning, training, volunteering, working, and attending counselling myself, I have found healthy ways to express my feelings and as a result, have had an easier and happier life. My hope is to help children and families find ways that they would like to express their emotions and start or go back to living mostly happy lives. There is space for all our emotions, the hope is that joy is the one felt most.

Headshot of Dallas in her play therapy office

I believe if children and families are able to find healthy ways to express thoughts and feelings it could make a big impact on the future of our world.

If you are interested in learning more, connect for a free 15-minute phone consultation or send an email with your inquiry.