The Synergetic Play Therapy Institute’s “Lessons From the Playroom” Podcasts are a series of FREE, recorded podcasts designed to help therapists understand the little lessons that kids teach us that make a big difference in the play therapy process.
Our podcast host, Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S, is an innovative and inspiring teacher and pioneer in play therapy. She founded and is the President of the Synergetic Play Therapy Institute and the creator of Synergetic Play Therapy, a cutting-edge model of play therapy that bridges the gap between neuroscience and psychology. Lisa teaches and supervises all over the world, helping transform the lives of thousands of therapists and children. With these podcasts, she’ll teach 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!
Lessons from the Playroom Episode #73: Supporting Children through Anxiety and the Unknown
When life and situations become unpredictable, children have to orient to the unfamiliar just like adults do. The difference is that their brains are a little further behind in their capacity to regulate through it often leading to high levels of anxiety and other symptoms. Tune is as we explore how to support children through their anxiety and find a sense of security when the unknown arises.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #72 – Facilitating the Parent Check-in in Play Therapy
Talking with parents is an important part of the play therapy process, but what do we say? How do we help them understand what their child is working on? How do we communicate in a way that keep them engaged? Tune in as we explore how to check in with our clients’ most important people.
Scroll down to Podcast #13 on “Setting Great Goals in the Playroom.”
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #71 – Understanding Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue in Play Therapy
Vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue are far more common experiences for play therapists than we realize, especially during times of crisis. And how are they further impacted when play therapists are going through the same crisis, such as the COVID19 pandemic? Tune in to this very important conversation that is essential for all play therapists to hear.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #70 – Understanding the Four Threats to the Brain in a Crisis
During a crisis, such as the current pandemic, waves of dysregulation can often feel like a daily experience and even the norm. Why? Because our brains are not just perceiving one threat, but four! Tune in as we revisit the 4 threats to the brain and learn the impact they may be having on our nervous system, as well as the key to regulating and coming back to yourself in the midst of all the intensity and chaos.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #69 – Online Play Therapy and Therapist Fatigue
Working with children and families virtually can surprisingly cause fatigue for the play therapist. From a difference in non-verbal cues to the way we sit to the lighting in the room, from hydration to whether or not we’re wearing shoes, all sorts of things play a role. Tune in to learn how to make online play therapy synergize with your nervous system.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #68 – The Vagus Nerve: Why it’s a Key to Regulation
The vagus nerve is one of the most important nerves in your body. Not only is it vital to regulation, but it plays a role in immunity and helps the body recover faster from damage. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to stimulate this nerve and help keep it (and your body) working as optimally as possible.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #67 – Nature in Play Therapy (Part 2)
From the mountains to the trees to the warm summer’s breeze, sometimes we just need our Mother Earth. Bringing nature into play therapy provides a wonderful opportunity to further regulate yourself and your client. But you don’t always have to be outside to benefit from nature’s nurturing tendencies. Join us as we explore the great outdoors once more!
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #66 – Lying in Play Therapy
While lying often gets a bad rap, everybody lies (yep, even you!). In fact, it has less to do with manipulation and more to do with protection of self. In other words, lying has a purpose and, as therapists, it’s up to us to recognize the feelings underneath the fib.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #65 – Cooperative Games in Play Therapy
Cooperative Games are growing in popularity, likely because of their ability to cultivate teamwork and appreciation of one another. In the playroom, they’re used effectively with siblings and families, reminding each player that it’s not about winning; it’s about the experience.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #64 – Supporting Adoption and Foster Parents in Play Therapy
Working with adoptive and foster parents is a rewarding experience, but the lack of education that runs rampant poses a challenge. As therapists, one of the most important things we can do is fill in the gaps while allowing them the space to grieve.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #63 – Presence in the Playroom
Much to Barbie’s chagrin, you’re the most important toy in the playroom. Still, showing up for a session isn’t enough: you must be fully present too. But in order to become present with the child, you must first learn how to be present with yourself.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #62 – Spirituality in the Playroom
Spirituality in the playroom not only means working with clients and families who may hold different belief systems, but it also means finding your own. For some, this is a higher power; for others, play therapy is their spiritual path.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #61 – Nutrition in the Playroom
The connection between gut and brain is becoming more widely studied and gaining in increased importance. For children who struggle, this brings up the possibility that what they’re eating is feeding underlying dysfunction. Diet might not be the sole answer, but it could play a vital role in finding a solution. Join Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S, and Kelly Miller, LCSW, RPT-S, as they explore this intriguing topic.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #60 – Perfectionism in the Playroom
Perfectionism in the playroom shows up in a variety of ways. But beneath the need to be perfect sits a child’s uncertainty about themselves. The key to regulating this fear and anxiety is showing the child how to come back to who they truly are.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #59 – Sensory Processing Disorder in Play Therapy
Sensory Processing Disorder is a misunderstood challenge that can show up in the playroom in a variety of ways. Often, recognizing the issue is the first step in helping the client. The second, of course, is showing these children how to regulate.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #58 – Hygiene Issues in Play Therapy
Little kids aren’t known for hygiene and inside the playroom is no different. However, a noticeable lack of hygiene may be the sign of something bigger. A child regressing in emotional age or reliving past trauma may engage in unsanitary behavior. When this happens, it’s important that we leave shame at the door.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #57 – Little Lessons in Play Therapy
Little kids come with little issues, issues that might grow big if we are unsure how to handle them. In this podcast, Lisa discusses the commonly asked “little questions.” Tune in as she explores broken toys, food in the playroom, lying in the playroom, and what to do when a child tries to take a toy home.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #56 – How to Stay Inspired as a Play Therapist
The brain is a high maintenance organ, one that wants a challenge! In order to stay passionate in our careers as play therapists, we must give the brain the growth it craves. But we must give ourselves permission too – the permission to be ourselves and pursue what inspires us.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #55 – Grief and Loss in Play Therapy
When grief or loss occurs, we are culturally predisposed to expect sadness. But in and out of the playroom, children may feel a myriad of emotions ranging from heartache to anger to relief. How can we meet children where they are and give them the freedom to experience their loss in their own way? Tune in to explore this challenging topic.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #54 – Music Therapy in the Playroom
Music plays an important therapeutic role, in the playroom and in life. It creates its own expression and its own language, allowing those who hear it to feel and react deeply. Take note: music matters.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #53 – Medical Trauma in Play Therapy
Medical trauma is prevalent in the majority of children who have undergone medical procedures or experienced chronic and acute conditions. This shows up in the playroom in a variety of ways, including those that can lead the therapist to jump to conclusions. Listen in to explore how to not only help children who have experienced this type of trauma but how to minimize future trauma as well.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #52 – Two Roles, One Room: When You’re a Parent and a Play Therapist
Being a parent and a play therapist has both benefits and drawbacks. While parenthood can offer added insight, having kids doesn’t translate into having all the answers inside the playroom. Why? Because like children, no two parents are exactly alike.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #51 – Working With Gifted Children in Play Therapy
Gifted children are unquestionably bright, but the gifted child isn’t the same as the intelligent child. Often the difference lies not only in intellectual needs but also the ability to regulate. Giftedness typically comes packaged with self-imposed standards that are impossibly hard to meet, leaving the child bored, angry, or anxious.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #50: Sibling Rivalry: The Inevitable Childhood Conflict
Parents often want their children to get along, a family environment void of argument. But the sibling dynamic is one in which disagreement is unavoidable. This isn’t always a bad thing – conflict leads to empowerment and growth.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #49: Working with Parents in the Playroom
Parents in the playroom can give even the most seasoned play therapists pause, leaving them feeling insecure and watched. But moms and dads are part of the healing package. Relying on the power of parents only enhances the power of play.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #48: Rupture and Repair in Play Therapy
Rupture, repair, repeat – it’s a recipe for relationship. Whether that relationship is with your client or with yourself, misattunement is an unavoidable but necessary occurrence. It provides the foundation of trust, opening the doors to true healing.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #47: Double Duty – Working With Twins in Play Therapy
Twins may be nature’s 2-for-1 deal, but being a twin (or having twins) comes with unique challenges not always experienced by singletons. From separation anxiety to individuality, join Lisa Dion (who is a fraternal twin) and Susan Stutzman (a mother of identical twins) as they discuss these marvelous multiples.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #46: Resurrecting Rogers – What Did Carl Rogers Really Want to Say?
Carl Rogers is one of the most influential psychologists in history, but he’s also one of the most misunderstood. Above all, he advocated for acceptance of self so clinicians could help their clients do the same. In this podcast, Lisa takes you right into the words and teachings to help us explore what he truly wanted us to know and some of it just might surprise you.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #45: Dueling Parents – Managing High Conflict Divorce in Play Therapy
Divorce is often painted as a traumatizing experience, but what it looks like through the perspective of a child varies greatly. Working with high conflict divorce requires recognizing this deviation. It also requires a neutrality, and a focus on what matters most: healing the child.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #44: Emotional Flooding in the Playroom – When the Therapist Finds Themselves Outside Their Window of Tolerance
Emotional flooding is part of therapy: it occurs in all play therapy paradigms. Looking at it not through a lens of shame but with a focus on connection turns it from an enemy into an ally. In fact, emotional flooding – because of its realness and rawness – can lead to greater levels of healing and authenticity..
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #43: Why Isn’t this Child Playing – When a Child Won’t Play in Play Therapy
A playroom without play can cause confusion. But there are many reasons a child may leave the toy box shut. Sometimes, it’s a reflection of anxiety or tied to a younger emotional age. Other times, this issue isn’t one at all: discovering the play requires setting aside our preconceived notions about what play entails.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #42: FASD in the Playroom
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is often misunderstood, with diagnoses that vary by country. In this podcast, Lisa is joined by special guest Natascha Lawrence as they work to break down the confusion surrounding FASD while exploring the ways to most effectively support these amazing and misunderstood children.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #41: Peeking Through the Play: Hide-and-Go-Seek and Peek-a-Boo in Play Therapy
Child’s play is serious business and Peek-a-Boo and Hide-and-Go-Seek are no exceptions. But these games, like so many, act as a platform for the emotions a child is processing at any given time. At their heart, they may be most about wanting to be seen and wanting to be found.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #40: The Elements of Art in Play Therapy
Art in the playroom can be a challenge, especially for therapists who believe they are artistically limited. But art provides a necessary and informative outlet for children. It’s not the final product that’s important; it’s the process that counts. Being present and attuned keeps the therapist from painting themselves into a corner of insecurity and self-doubt.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #39: Movies in the Playroom
Recreating a movie can sometimes take the place of imaginative play. When this happens in the playroom, it provides clues to the underlying problem and challenges. The key is learning to flip the “script” towards integration.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #38: People Pleasing in the Playroom
People-pleasing in the playroom happens, and not just with children; therapists get caught in people-pleasing too! This ever-so-familiar coping strategy is often covering up challenges a child or therapist may not yet be able to face. Recognizing why this happens and what to do when it happens is the first step to creating a session filled with integration instead of placation.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #37: Early Termination in Play Therapy
Early termination happens for a handful of reasons. Sometimes, we can’t change this. But shifting our perspective helps us look at terminations through another view, trusting ourselves and the child in the process.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #36: Using Bop Bags in the Playroom
Bop bags in the playroom are a controversial toy. But do they promote aggression and anger? Or can they be used to promote integration, self-awareness, and regulation? The answer: it depends on how you use them.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #35: 9 Elements to an Effective Teacher Conference
Teachers and play therapists make a powerful pair, but this starts with an initial conference. How can clinicians assure this meeting goes well, putting themselves in a position where they’re viewed as an ally rather than a threat? Success involves nine elements and lots of validation.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #34: Going Below the Surface – Why Getting Underneath is the Key to Healing
Play therapists often focus on protocol, technique, and, of course, toys. But what’s below all this? Engaging the right-brain and allowing yourself to feel are the keys to helping your clients inside and outside of the playroom.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #33: Getting it Wrong in the Playroom – Why Mistakes are Must-Dos for Great Play Therapists
All of us have moments when we doubt ourselves. Moments when we shake our heads in frustration. Moments when we have no idea what we’re doing. But challenges in the playroom are a necessity – they allow us to master new techniques and broaden our skills. Getting it wrong? It might just be right.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #32: Does teletherapy work in play therapy?
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #31: Selective Mutism in the Playroom
From the child who only talks to certain people to the child who doesn’t talk at all, selective mutism has many faces. The playroom is a common place where it surfaces. But a silent child speaks without words, telling us to look below the surface at the nervous system underneath.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #30: Mirror Mirror on the Wall: The Client is You After All
As play therapists, we’re often taught to check ourselves at the door. But, when the child’s challenges reflect our own, this is difficult for even the most seasoned clinician. What happens when we embrace the mirror and tap into our humanness? You just might experience some of the most powerful sessions when you see yourself in your client’s struggle.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #29: Helping Parents and Children Heal When Tragedy Strikes
Tragedy is an inevitability of life, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t. No one is immune, including kids. But heartbreak can bring about a myriad of emotions, inside and outside of the playroom. We can’t always keep kids safe, but we can reduce their fear of the unknown.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #28: Intakes with the Brain in Mind
The intake session is a vital part of play therapy. But it’s not all about educating parents about the process and their involvement; it’s also about the nervous system – yours and mom and dad’s.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #27: Understanding Sleep Issues in Play Therapy
From the refusal to go to sleep to an inability to stay asleep, a child’s tossing and turning speak volumes. But why do some children want to ban the bed? And how does this look inside the playroom? A play therapist who also happens to be a sleep specialist helps us uncover the answers.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #26: Let Nature by your Co-Facilitator (Part 1) – an Interview with a Twelve-Year-Old
Play therapy often happens inside of four walls, but the world outside acts as a co-facilitator. Nature is a powerful force for adults as well as kids. Embracing everything from roots to rocks helps the healing process.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #25: Emotional Flooding in the Playroom
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #24: Technology and Children – Is Pokemon Friend or Foe?
Children scream for ice cream and screentime too. But is technology as harmful as many assume or is it a necessity? Does using it mean a child is zoning out or could it mean they’re engaging? In this podcast, we discuss why screentime isn’t a black and white issue: inside the shades of gray is a child meeting his or her needs.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #23: Turning Your Sand Tray Into a Regulation Device
There are so many ways to use sand in a play therapy session, but have you ever considered turning your sand tray into a regulation device? The key to this is the right tools. So, shift towards the sifter and explore the many ways sand helps tell us all about the state of the nervous system.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #22: Do Children Remember their Traumas?
Whether we remember before the age of two or three is still misunderstood and even debated, so understanding the different types of memory helps us understand that memory does indeed exist at early ages. It helps us understand that even if the mind doesn’t remember, the body does.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #21: Calmness in the Playroom – Ally or Adversary?
Often, it’s our natural inclination to ask children to calm down. This happens inside playrooms, classrooms, and on top of jungle gyms. But is this the best solution? Or should we focus less on the idea of calmness and more on the idea of connection?
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #20: Engaging Dads in the Play Therapy Process
Working with dads in the playroom isn’t always the same as working with moms. It takes understanding the psychology of men, learning how to communicate in a way that is meaningful, and proving that you are a partner who doesn’t know “better”, you just know “different.”
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #19: Rejection as a Gift
Rejection is something we look upon negatively, both in the playroom and in our personal lives. But, here’s a secret: behind rejection is always, always acceptance.This is one of the many reasons rejection is a boost rather than a barrier.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #18: When a Child Doesn’t Speak in the Playroom
A child’s refusal to speak inside the playroom can leave even the most seasoned therapist flustered. But connecting with clients involves much more than words. Silence can be golden when you know what it means and how to harness it.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #17: The Importance of Studying Different Modalities
Play therapy is an evolving field with new ideas around every corner. And each theory – new and old – has something to offer. Seeking knowledge improves your practice and benefits your clients (and yourself). As play therapists, it is important to embrace the idea that growth really never ends. The moment we believe we have figured it out is precisely the moment that we stop growing.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #16: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in the Playroom
Sexual identity and sexual orientation are not discussed often enough in the field of play therapy. But embracing these topics benefits our clients. So does refraining from black and white thinking. After all, children are colorful (and so are we).
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #15: Boredom in the Playroom
Boredom in the playroom is something most therapists experience – from an unyielding yawn to counting the ticks of a slow-moving clock, we’ve all found ourselves less than enthused in one session or another. But boredom isn’t always a negative thing. Sometimes, it’s a gentle reminder that it’s time to grow.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #14: The Four Threats of the Brain
From fear of the unknown to uncomfortable incongruence, the brain is a worry wart! It’s forever on the lookout for external and internal threats. And there are certain things that bother it more than others.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #13: Setting Goals in the Playroom
From the boardroom to the playroom and everywhere else, setting goals is a vital part of success. But in therapy sessions, the best goals follow certain rules, rules that allow both parent and therapist to see the progress made. After all, it is seeing this progress that acts as a catalyst of encouragement, keeping the parent bought into the play therapy process and the therapist able to celebrate the changes their clients are making.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #12: When a Child Says They’re Done in the Session
A child wanting to end a session early can rattle even the most seasoned therapist. So how do you handle the situation? In this podcast, Lisa Dion discusses how to recognize flooding, return a child to their window of tolerance, and why ending a session doesn’t need to end the relationship.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #11: Making Games Therapeutic in Play Therapy
From Candyland’s Gum Drop Mountain to the rungs of Chutes and Ladders, games in play therapy are more than a race to the finish line. They provide us with direct insight into the minds and nervous system states of our child clients. Learn some tips on how to make games in your play therapy sessions more than about just winning and losing.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #10: Helping Parents Explain to their Child Why They are Going to Play Therapy
Talking to kids about why they are going to play therapy isn’t always easy. As play therapists, we can work with parents to help them find a clear explanation that helps soothe their child’s potential anxiety and helps minimize apprehension. Not only does it teach kids what to expect, but it also helps the parent get on board.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #9: The Importance of Gratitude in the Playroom
It’s easy to have gratitude for the good things in our lives, but what about the challenges? In this podcast, you’ll learn how appreciation can widen your window of tolerance and open your heart. You’ll also learn that clients come into our playrooms for a reason.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #8: An Interview with an Eleven-Year-Old about Play Therapy
Kids say the darndest things and they also ask the best questions. Join Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S as she’s interviewed by her eleven-year-old daughter, Avery. Listen as they discuss the power of play, and hear Avery’s advice to all play therapists.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #7: Voicing the Toy and Observational Statements with the Brain in Mind
Voicing the toy is an important part of play therapy, but it’s the child’s voice that should prove loudest. In this podcast, Lisa offers tips on helping the child stay engaged in their process. She explains why sticking to the facts and clarity in language are essential for keeping the child in the parts of their brain that we need them in.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #6: Endings and Transitions
It’s hard to say goodbye, especially for children! How do you help kids transition at the end of a play session? How do you help them transition at the conclusion of therapy altogether? How do you help them face the unknown? In this podcast, Lisa addresses why parting is sweet sorrow and how to help children accept change.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #5: When & Why to Set Boundaries in the Playroom
Setting boundaries in the playroom can be quite the confusing process! When to set them? How to set them? Why to set them? Is it important to set them? These are just a few of the questions that Lisa will address in this podcast to help shed some light on this important topic.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #4: What Our Playroom Says About Us
Did you know that your playroom is a reflection of you? What you put in it and how you set it up is information to the child about where you are willing to go emotionally and what is happening in your own nervous system! Join Lisa as she discusses what your playroom says about you and explores some of the most essential toys to have in it and ideas about how to set it up.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #3: How to Recognize Empowerment in the Playroom
Therapists are so good at identifying and working with the problem, but are we as trained to also recognize empowerment? In this podcast, Lisa addresses why it can be challenging to recognize when a child is moving into empowerment as she shares multiple strategies to help you identify when your child clients are overcoming their challenges.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #2: How to Leave Play in the Playroom (i.e. Not Take It Home)
Stressors are a significant part of play therapy, especially when you have numerous traumatized kids on your caseload or you have a really complicated family or child that you’re trying to support. Unless you learn to regulate and discharge, you’ll likely take some aspect of it home with you. In this podcast, we’ll explore how to leave this dysregulation where it belongs.
“Lessons from the Playroom” Episode #1: The Most Important Toy
Without learning about ourselves as the most important toy, we miss part of the magic in the playroom and we miss understanding how play therapy actually works. In this podcast, we’ll explore why not recognizing our own internal states cuts off access to a deeper level of intuitive knowledge available to us during the play and leaves us missing out on the ability to fully connect with the child.