At the beginning of November, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona hosted a two-day virtual Advanced Play Therapy training for master’s level therapists working with the Birth to Five population in the foster care system. Meghan Hays Davis, Training and Program Director who joined Prevent Child Abuse Arizona earlier this year, was the driver behind this project.

“As a former Birth to Five clinicians working in rural Arizona, it was often difficult to find advanced clinical training that was affordable. Not only that, but it can be challenging to find training that offers practical tools to use in sessions with children and families. As we understand better how trauma affects the body and how the therapeutic work needs to include body and sensory engagement, this type of training and practice improvement is essential. Being able to offer this level of training, accessible from anywhere in the state and at an affordable cost, improves Arizona’s ability to serve the mental health needs of children statewide.”

Children who have experienced complex developmental trauma often present unusual behaviors both in and out of the play therapy room.  This workshop was designed to help play therapists feel comfortable leaning into nervous system dysregulation and reframe misbehavior as opportunities to soothe the limbic system through “bottom-up” body-based play therapy techniques involving movement, rhythm, and sensory play. Attendees learned to put techniques born of the most current neuroscience research into practice (research from experts including Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Stephen Porges, Dr. Peter Levine, and Dr. Daniel Siegel). Attendees were eager to apply what they learned:

  • “This training gave me more tools to both understand and aid in regulating a child who is escalated. I got SO many new ideas on tools and techniques.”
  • “I see kids differently and not based on their behavior. I now see what is the behavior providing for them.”
  • “I am more confident with the littles and helping to frame how to address the needs of the lower brain stem. I am really excited to include and work with parents/caregivers.”