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Synergetic Play Therapy

Synergetic Play Therapy is a child-centered child-led therapeutic model based on the latest neuroscience research.  It believes when a therapist becomes centered and authentic in the room, they can facilitate collaborative communication, thus creating a synergy between themselves and the child. “Such communication allows for the development of a child’s capacity for self regulation.” (Dr. Dan Siegel)

The process of change in Synergetic Play Therapy:

1)  The child becomes aware that (s)he is dys-regulated and begins to explore

the symptoms through projection-setting up the therapist and the toys to feel how

(s)he feels.  The therapist becomes attuned with the child, so that (s)he can embody

the projection and mirror the child’s state back to him/her.  In doing so, the child

sees her/himself reflected clearly and starts to become aware of how (s)he feels. 

It is more powerful for the therapist to say “I’m feeling excited (angry, bored,
sad, etc.)” over “It seems like you are excited”

2)  The child begins to realize that there are other choices.  The therapist presents alternative behavior and cognitive patterns to the child by modeling within the play experience, in a non-directive format.


3)  The child tries on a new choice once (s)he perceive more benefits to the drawbacks to making the new choice.  The therapist highlights the behavioral and cognitive changes in the play, thereby reinforcing the new pattern into the child’s newly created neural-network.

What to tell your child about their participation in play therapy:

This is your child’s opportunity to fully express her/himself in whatever way (s)he needs to in order to feel best.  A great way to introduce the process is to say something like, “You are going to have your very own special play time to do whatever you need to do to feel great.”  Most children do not need much more than this as an introduction.  If your child does, you can add things such as, “The place where you are going has a room full of toys and you get to play with whatever you want.  I also met Ms. Tara, the person you are going to play with, and she is really nice and loves to play with kids.”  If your child still shows resistance to coming, the best approach is to simply validate their feelings about doing something new and different, “I hear that you do not want to go and I understand that you are nervous.  It is really important for you to have your own special time so we are going to go and check it out.”

Remember, your child’s participation is a gift, not a punishment.  If your child perceives this experience as a punishment for their behavior of if they feel that they are responsible for “fixing” any current issues, they will most likely be resistant to the process and it will take longer for them to develop trust with their therapist.


There is no formula around how many sessions each child will benefit from.  However, I typically say 4-12 months of weekly sessions is a usual course of treatment.

(Lisa Dion MA LPC RPT-S)


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