Black Play Therapy

Althea T. Simpson, LCSW, RPT-S™

Founder & Keynote Speaker

Althea is a powerhouse of creativity! She holds degrees in micro and macro social work and specializes in providing trauma healing services. Althea is the founder of Brighter Day Therapeutic Solutions, a psychotherapy practice that prioritizes trauma response, Unicorn Life Play Therapy, the Training Academy, and the Black Play Therapy Society. Althea is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and is also a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor™. Additionally, she is certified as a trainer and facilitator in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method and is a fully certified Playmobil Pro.Play facilitator. Althea’s expertise lies in guiding individuals and families towards building resiliency skills to move from a state of “Hurt to Healed.” With over 22 years of experience in the mental health field, Althea is also available to provide employee assistance program (EAP) services and mental health consulting services. As a trainer, speaker, and author, Althea is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and expertise to help others.

Douglas Gotel, LICSW, RPT-S™


Douglas Gotel is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S™). He is the owner of Gotel & Thrive, a boutique mental health practice that helps gay and heterosexual men of color, women of color, and children & youth of diverse backgrounds to show up in their lives as the best version of themselves. He also serves as the Director for School Mental Health at a metropolitan school district, where he led a multi-agency stakeholder group to develop a Trauma-Responsive Schools Model and the development of an unprecedented data system that measures implementation and outcomes data of 15 evidence-based mental health interventions delivered in schools. He is a certified Sand Tray Therapist and EMDR Therapist and has more than 15 years of experience in mental health. Mr. Gotel has been a presenter at The Center for School Mental Health National Conference, Complex Trauma Treatment Network National Conference, and the Association of Black Psychologists National Convention. His commentary has been featured in the Huffington Post and EdSurge.

Niani Smith, DSW, LICSW


Niani Smith is a native of Washington, DC and was educated in the DC Public School System. She graduated from Lincoln University, with a Bachelor of Science in Human Services and a Bachelor of Science in Religion. Niani holds a Master of Social Work degree with a Clinical concentration, specializing in Children and Families from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. After years of Social Work service in the DC metropolitan area, Niani furthered her education by obtaining her Doctor of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California.

Currently, Dr. Niani engages in multiple work streams in the social work realm. She serves as a Trauma Prevention and Recovery Manager for DC Public Schools, the Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness for Redemptions Global which currently supports human service organizations in Africa and provides clinical supervision to a number of mental health clinics in Maryland. In 2023, Dr. Niani was appointed by Governor Wes Moore to the Commission on Correctional Standards for the State of Maryland. Dr. Niani’s professional goal is to influence and change systems to support the healthy development and advancement of individuals by increasing awareness on the impact and effects of trauma and shifting programmatic structures to promote healing.

Erica Tatum-Sheade, LCSW, RPT™


Erica Tatum-Sheade is a Licensed Psychotherapist, Registered Play Therapist™, Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator, and one of the Contributing Authors of Women Thrive: Inspiring True Stories of Women Overcoming Adversity first edition. Erica has long been a tireless advocate for children in Arizona, first as a senior social worker with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and then as the Integrated Mental Health Associates (IMHA) co-owner, where she provides therapy for children and adolescents. In 2018, after seeing a growing need for support for young girls, she created a group curriculum called G.E.M.S.™ (Girls Empowered, Motivated, and Strong), where she teaches concepts of confidence, empowerment, self-esteem, and authenticity to girls from elementary through high school. She provides training and public speaking on mental health to the public and other helping professionals. Mrs. Tatum-Sheade is also a Maricopa County Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and sits on the boards of many organizations, including the Association for Play Therapy Arizona Chapter, the Sun Valley Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., Black Therapists in AZ, and the suicide-prevention non-profit Kid in the Corner. She is also one of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Regional leaders for the Daring Way.

Erica is the outgoing predisent of the Arizona Association for Play Therapy. One of the 2021 NAWBO Woman of Vision award winners and the 2022 National Association of Social Worker-Arizona Social Worker of the Year, Erica has a strong passion for the work she does and the community she serves.