Jennifer has training in a variety of Play Therapy Approaches: Child Centered, Adlerian, Synergetic, Attachment Based, Jungian, Sand Tray and Art Therapy. She uses an individualized approach for your child, creating an environment that fosters strength and growth. When working with children, Jennifer provides an accepting, nonjudgmental, safe, environment for their expression and exploration. Jennifer encourages each child's unique gifts and abilities, suggests alternative views or behaviors, challenges maladaptive behavior patterns, sets up natural reinforcements and consequences in the play, and encourages growth and processing.
"Children must be approached and understood from a developmental perspective. They are not miniature adults. Their world is one of concrete realities, and their experiences often are communicated through play. In seeking to facilitate children's expression and exploration of their emotional world, therapists must turn loose of their world of reality and verbal expression and move into the conceptual-expressive world of children. Unlike adults, whose natural medium of communication is verbalization, the natural medium of communication for children is play and activity." (Landreth, C, 2012)
Notice: Jennifer is not a forensic psychologist, child custody evaluator, or guardian ad litem and does not participate in court-related assessments, testimonies, or appearances. If you are seeking any services other than supportive and growth-oriented therapy, please seek appropriate referrals to the specialists who will better fit your needs.
- It is NOT ‘just playing’
It is NOT ‘talk therapy’
-works within the way children understand
-is intrinsically complete
-closes the gap between concrete experience and abstract thought
-is a safe and objective relationship
-is compatible with how children learn and generate new behaviors and experiences
-is a method of communicating within the child’s world
-is an effective modality for facilitating responsibility and better decision making skills
When may play therapy be appropriate?
Trauma, Depression , Anxiety, Attachment Issues, Attention Problems, Grief, Self Esteem, Behavior Problems, etc.
Informative Articles by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S, Director and Founder of The Play Therapy Institute of Colorado
For more helpful articles, visit Play Therapy Institute of Colorado https://playtherapycolorado.com
Trauma Impacts Abnormalities in the Brain and Play Therapy Heals Them
by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
The brain, for all its greatness, is also highly susceptible to experiences that register as traumatic – after all, one of its main jobs is to assess the environment for threats. The brain changes that occur as a result of these experiences can cause long-lasting effects during youth, but they can also carry over to adulthood; in short, perceiving trauma as children can set the stage for becoming a traumatized adult.
What does this mean for the brain and behaviors? Some of the perceived traumas manifest in the impairment of the anterior cingulate cortex, an impairment that leaves emotions less regulated and mood disrupted. The end result can range from impulse disorders to anxiety, from depression to suicide. It can also lead to substance abuse later in life.
All of the above has been known for quite some time, but research is now helping us see the details of what is actually being impacted in these areas of the brain.
In our brains, our neurons contain a thick, fatty coating called myelin. This myelin covers the axon of some nerves cells and helps the brain do what it does best: communicate with all aspects of itself and the body. It speeds up the transmission of the electrical signals being sent. Myelin builds as people grow and continues to do so until a child reaches early adulthood.
And when the myelin is damaged, white matter abnormalities appear.
Scientists at the McGill University Group for Suicide Studies decided to look at brains of people who have passed away under a microscope to investigate these abnormalities further and their discoveries were quite telling. They discovered that the myelin thickness of many nerve fibers was reduced in the brains of people who had experiences, as children, that registered as traumatic (we already knew this). But, what’s more, the myelin generation and maintenance processes were also changed.
They discovered that certain larger axons grew in diameter too. All of this was enough to lead scientists to conclude that the changes in the axons and in the myelin disrupt the areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation, the reward system, and satisfaction. In other words, these changes alter how a person processes their feelings. And that, in turn, alters behavior.
Ultimately, these findings help confirm for us what we have thought for years – that experiences perceived as traumatic in the young can manifest into literal brain abnormalities in the old and every age in between.
There’s still much to learn, of course – that could be neuroscience’s tagline. The same researchers who conducted this study are planning to explore their studies even further.
Re-Patterning the Brain
The above shows us that abnormalities in the brain can start early in life, but does this mean that a child who has registered events as traumatic is guaranteed to turn into a traumatized adult? No – in part, that’s why play therapy exists.
As play therapists, we know that it’s not really trauma that wounds a child – it’s the perception of that trauma that activates the changes in the brain. That’s why helping children integrate their challenging experiences and helping them change their perceptions eases the damage. When we change our perceptions, we change brains and our behaviors, literally.
By working with children to integrate, we help the re-myelination process. When we allow kids to get in touch with their perceived trauma, we allow them to heal. When we repattern behaviors, we repattern the brain’s wiring. This decreases the risk of lasting damage.
The brain is always open to suggestion, both good and bad. Just as it can be impaired, it can be repaired too.
The Forgotten Ones: “Perfect Children” Need Play Therapy Too
by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
When it comes to play therapy, the acting out, aggressive, non-compliant, anxious child typically gets referred. Even the sad, depressed, withdrawn child finds a way onto an adult’s radar and gets help. But what about “The Perfect Child”? You know – the child who rarely asks for anything, follows all of the rules, doesn’t rock the boat, and in general is… easy. What about this child?
Children are typically brought to us because their struggles are obvious. Parents and teachers see their symptoms. Their behaviors and relational patterns are a clear cry for help. “The Perfect Child,” on the other hand, doesn’t have these outward symptoms or at least not the ones that we are used to identifying. Still, they need as much help as the children who are acting out…maybe even more.
Often these children have learned not to fight. They have learned to shut down their emotions, yet inside they are filled with anxiety and tension (even if they can’t feel it). They are so scared of making a mistake. They are frightened that in some giant way they will fail or disappoint others (and themselves).
So the child forms a strategy and strives for perfection — that leads to them becoming “the forgotten one.” In a classroom full of twenty-five children with a handful of kids acting out, the “perfect child” is seen as a blessing. In a moment of having to choose between dealing with Stephen, who won’t stay in his seat and is distracting everyone, or Sarah, who is quietly doing her work diligently and trying not to mess up, the choice where to put attention seems overtly obvious. Or in a family taken over by four-year-old Henry’s aggression and refusal to listen – it’s easy to see why the parents would think that six-year-old Joey, who spends his time reading in the corner, picking up after himself, and behaving without complaint, is doing really well.
But the truth is that these children may not be thriving – their worlds aren’t perfect, even if the kids try to be perfect. The pressure they carry inside for perfection and compliance can lead to internal conflict between who they are versus who they think they should be. They carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, internalizing their emotions and eventually numbing out or adopting avoidance patterns. They often don’t learn how to handle the intensity that lies under their “perfect image.” The idea of conflict feels beyond painful and the need to succeed or stay below everyone’s radar becomes a high priority. These children often navigate the world through their left-brain – they think their way through life instead of learning how to feel their way through life.
Without support, they’re at risk for addictive behaviors, depression, relationship conflict and a sense of not being good enough that permeates their existence.
Let’s not forget these kids. Let’s find them in the classrooms and in the families we work with. Let’s look them in the eye and help them know that they are seen – they haven’t been forgotten.