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Lessons from the Playroom Webinar and Podcast Series

This series from the Play Therapy Institute of Colorado offers recorded podcasts and live webinars that are designed to help therapists understand the little lessons that kids teach us that make a big difference in the play therapy process. Join Lisa Dion as she teaches you practical ways to transform both you and the child clients you work with. These inspiring educational lessons are sure to leave you feeling more confident and excited for your next session!  To listen to these podcasts or webinars, click here.


Online Intro to Synergetic Play Therapy



Synergetic Play Therapy (2008) is a researched-informed model of play therapy based on nervous system regulation, interpersonal neurobiology, physics, attachment, mindfulness, and therapist authenticity. Its primary play therapy influences are Child-Centered, Experiential, and Gestalt theories.

Although Synergetic  Play Therapy is called a model of play therapy, it’s actually a way of being in relationship with self and others. It’s an all-encompassing paradigm that can be applied to any facet of life and, subsequently, any model of play therapy can be applied to it or vice versa. Synergetic Play Therapy is both non-directive and directive in its application. 

The Synergetic Play Therapist aims to replicate the delicate dance of attunement that occurs between a caregiver and an infant. Since 60% of communication is non-verbal (Burgoon, 1985), it is important that the therapist’s verbalizations and non-verbal activity are congruent during the play therapy sessions in order to transmit trust and safety to the client (Shore, 2006). In doing so, the therapist maximizes right-hemisphere to right-hemisphere communication and acts as an external regulator for the client’s dysregulated states (Shore, 1994) as they arise in the play therapy process.

The therapist is the most important toy in the playroom.  Toys are used to help facilitate 1) The relationship between the child and his or her perceptions of the challenging experiences in their lives and 2) The relationship between the therapist and the child. SPT believes that the toys themselves are not as important as the energy and emotions that arise as a result of how the child is playing with them.  In SPT’s truest form, toys and language are not required.

SPT posits that the therapist’s ability to engage in mindfulness and model regulation of her own nervous system is the foundation for clients to learn how to manage their own. The therapist has to lead the way, just like a caregiver has to lead the way for an infant.

The therapist must work at the edge of the window of tolerance and the regulatory boundary of the days-regulated states in themselves and in the child in order to expand those boundaries and re-pattern the disorganization in the nervous system. A core principal of SPT is the therapist’s ability to be authentic and congruent in his or her expressions, coupled with the ability to model regulation through the crescendos and decrease dos in the client’s arousal system (Shore, 2006). This allows the therapist to stay on the edge of the window of tolerance and serves as a catalyst for the re-patterning of the nervous system.

“When the relationship is experienced as safe enough, the dissociated experiences will begin to come into conscious awareness.  As we resonate together, the activation will amplify and, if our window of tolerance is broad enough to contain this energy and information, our patient will also experience a widening of his or her window.  In the research of Carl Marci and colleagues (Marci & Reiss, 2005), these moments of autonomic synchrony were subjectively experienced as empathetically rich interpersonal joining.  This research showed that within the session, our nervous systems will flow into, out of, and back into synchrony many times.  This rhythm is parallel to the dance of mother and infant as they move from attunement to rupture and back to repair over and over, laying the foundation for security, optimism, and resilience.” (Badenoch, 2006)

With repeated observation of the therapist’s willingness to stay authentic and move towards the challenging emotions and physical sensations aroused through the play, the child’s mirror neuron system is activated and the child learns that it is ok to also move towards their own challenging internal states.  Research shows that as clients begin to move towards their challenging internal states, new neural connections are created until a critical state is reached that results in a new neural organization (Edelman, 2004; Tyson, 2002).

SPT is an all-encompassing paradigm that incorporates other models and expands on the therapeutic powers of play. Its roots are in Child-Centered, Experiential, Gestalt and Interpersonal Neurobiology. The focus is on being in relationship with the child, not doing something to the child. Through the play itself, the Synergetic Play Therapist supports the child in changing his perceptions of the perceived challenging events and thoughts in his life, as well as getting in touch with his or her authentic self.

In SPT, the child’s symptoms are understood as symptoms of a dys-regulated nervous system.  These dys-regulated states arise as a result of 1) The perceived challenges and thoughts he or she has regarding the events in his or her life and 2) He or she has lost attachment with him or herself and is attempting to be someone they are not (acting from “shoulds”) instead of being who they truly are.

The result of Synergetic Play Therapy is that the child heals from the inside out and from the lowest part of the brain up.

Learn more about the history and philosophy of SPT here.

"SPT is a game changer. It gives birth to the authentic self within the child and the therapist..."

Mark your Calendar

Online Introduction to Synergetic Play Therapy launches twice each year.

Due to significant demand, we decided to take this one-of-a-kind course online, so you can access it from anywhere. Not only will you still get individualized consultation, but you'll also explore what exactly is happening in the play therapy process, how change happens and ultimately what it takes to help children heal at profound levels. You will finish this course understanding how the "magic" happens in the playroom. To learn more about the course, and stay tuned for our announcement for registration dates, click here  

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