My name is Chuck West. I live in Michigan City, IN, and have worked in, managed, and now own, a business that–among other things–provides consultative mental health services to the Chicago Head Start Program.

My company, Worthington, Hurst and Associates, Ltd. (WHA), was the first such business in Chicago, beginning in 1967 when Head Start was just a pilot program here. As an outgrowth of our consultation, we developed a treatment arm that grew into a private, not-for-profit, clinical and training organization called The Theraplay Institute.

Theraplay(R) has become an international entity and I still serve on its board of directors as a founding member, but I am no longer (at least presently) a practicing Theraplay Therapist, although I make myself available for cases that interest me and I assist, when asked, with our training efforts.

I began with WHA in 1974 and was hired initially to be trained and then serve as a paraprofessional “mental health aide,” providing on-site treatment to children in the Chicago Public Schools’ Head Start Program who had “behavior problems” that made it difficult for them to participate appropriately in the program. I was also expected, after only a few months’ training (and no background in mental health, no degree, and no clear idea what was expected of me), to be the supervising paraprofessional, temporarily taking over for the woman who was to train me while she took a maternity leave. Now, more than 32 years later, this temporary job has turned into a lifetime commitment.

I’ve been trying to assemble a small group of individuals in the Chicago area to discuss and possibly write about our experiences as (still RARE) men in preschool programs, but my efforts have fallen flat. Hence, when Gil told me of this group, I was more than eager to join.

Thank you for allowing me to join you.

Chuck West in Indiana