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All Behavior Makes Sense: Play Therapy with Kids with Vulnerable Nervous Systems

April 13 @ 9:00 am - 12:15 pm CDT

$162 – $180
CEs Available: 6   |     Two Day Training      |     Virtual

All behavior makes sense – except the ones that don’t! Some children have big, baffling behaviors that leave even seasoned play therapists confused, overwhelmed, burned-out or referring-out. This confusion leaves play therapists feeling ineffective and parents feeling hopeless.

Theories of human development and behavioral neuroscience, including polyvagal theory (Stephen Porges), the neurosequential model of therapeutics (Bruce Perry), and attachment theory (John Bowlby) help us make sense of even the most baffling behaviors in our play therapy clients. Understanding what behavior really is begins the roadmap for treatment planning. Play therapists (and parents) can stop playing behavior whack-a-mole and experience better client outcomes by shifting the focus away from behavior and toward the brain and autonomic nervous system.  

Attendees will learn a playful paradigm that will decode even the most confusing behaviors in children, as well as in parents and even ourselves. When children learn how their challenging behaviors are the heroic ways their watchdog and possum brains are working hard to keep them safe, they can develop the inner felt safety to connect with and soothe these overworked and confused parts of self. Playfully connecting to our client’s inner communities decreases shame and increases integration, ultimately decreasing challenging behaviors.  




Additional Information


This virtual special program will take place April 13-14, 2023 from 9am-12:15pm CDT each day. View this training’s detailed agenda.


Robyn Gobbel, LMSW-Clinical, has 20 years of practice in family and child therapy experience, specializing in complex trauma, attachment, and adoption. She has integrated her diverse clinical training to create an attachment-rich, sensory-sensitive, and relational neurosciences supported healing environment for children and families. Robyn consults, teaches, and trains extensively throughout the US. She is a podcast host and author of the forthcoming Raising Kids with Big, Baffling Behaviors: Brain-Body-Sensory Strategies that Really Work.

  • Overview of polyvagal theory and apply to play therapy client behavior.
  • Overview of neurosequential model of therapeutics and apply to play therapy client behavior.
  • Owl brain- characteristics and how to strengthen with play therapy interventions.
  • Watchdog brain- characteristics and how to calm with play therapy interventions.
  • Possum brain- characteristics and how to calm with play therapy interventions.

Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the 2 branches of the autonomic nervous system and how they respond during play therapy.
  2. Describe how a sensitized stress response system contributes to confusing and baffling behaviors in play therapy clients.
  3. List 3 parts of play therapy clients’ inner communities that often present in play therapy.
  4. Identify 3 play therapy techniques that strengthen a play therapy client’s ‘owl’ brain (ventral vagal complex).
  5. Identify 3 play therapy techniques that bring safety to a play therapy client’s ‘watchdog’ brain (sympathetic nervous system).
  6. Identify 3 play therapy techniques that bring safety to a play therapy client’s ‘possum’ brain (dissociation continuum/dorsal vagal complex).

Who Should Attend?

People who work with children and families in many different capacities will benefit from training programs offered by The Theraplay Institute. Visit our Who Should Attend page for more information. This course’s Content Level is Intermediate.


View this program’s bibliography for books and other materials referenced in the development of the content for this program.

Special Notes: Our cancellation policies have been temporarily adjusted to reflect our response to the pandemic and local government and health department directives. Please review this policy before completing your registration. We urge all participants to put their health and that of members of their communities first.

For information about our CE process, cancellation policy, and how to contact us with questions and concerns visit our FAQ page.

There is no conflict of interest or commercial support for this program.

Registration Terms and Conditions


April 13
9:00 am - 12:15 pm CDT
$162 – $180
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