Lisa Dion is the creator of Synergetic Play Therapy and is the founder and director of the Play Therapy Institute of Colorado


She is experienced in many settings to include private practice, schools, social services, foster care agencies, and orphanages. 


Synergetic Play Therapy’s name was influenced by Lisa’s love for the brain and understanding what happens in the nervous system.  


The collaboration between the child and the therapist, and on a deeper level between the mind, breath, body is an important support in the therapeutic process.  Through this realization, she was drawn to the word “synergy” since it is the idea that when 2 parts come together, the effect is so much greater than what they are individually.   Collaboration within the therapist, child and between them both is cultivated.


Through Lisa’s work, before she created Synergetic Play Therapy, she felt like something was missing.  She had a personal experience with her daughter that gave her an intuitive felt sense of the importance of bringing in the nervous system getting into the somatics.  Becoming an external regulator can take it to a deeper level of healing.  Accessing the brainstem allows for work involving the level of attunement such as what’s present between a caregiver and an infant. 

Lisa’s students say that it feels like a way of being rather than a model.  Her students report transforming through the process and it spills over into their other relationships.


Synergetic Play Therapy is not a list of fun techniques or activities to do with the child, but rather it is a “way of being”.


One of her students said, “Synergetic Play Therapy gives birth to the authentic self within the child and the therapist.”


Lisa urges her students to study as many philosophies and models of play therapy as possible to maximize their abilities. 


Implicit memories bring a feeling and a felt sense that was placed in the early years.  Often before the age 3, the implicit memories provide the structures in the brain. 


When Lisa’s daughter was born, she was emotionally dysregulated. While Lisa was pregnant with her, they both experienced a car crash. When she was born, Lisa was on a journey to help her rewire her nervous system.  She had her first play therapy experience at 9 months old where she played out shock of what she felt when the car accident happened. 


The exchange happening between the therapist and the child is such a vital part of therapy.


Synergetic play therapy teaches the therapist what to do with their personal experience of what the child is feeling and experiencing through the play.  


When parents are dysregulated, they need to regulate before they tend to their child.


The therapist does a lot of breathing, and modeling for the child.  

The mirror neuron system allows the child to borrow the therapist’s regulatory system.  Therapist use themselves to support the child through their healing.  The therapist is intentionally authentic and may rock, say things, and do things that the child needs right in the moment.


Lisa tells a story of a child that had many generalized fears that learned regulatory techniques such as holding her heart and stomach while she did that during his expressions of the fearful scenerios.  In session 3, he reported that he knew what to do when he got scared.  He was able to borrow her nervous system, watch how she handled the situations, and internalized a way of taking care of himself during these types of situations. Through that process, his nervous system got rewired organically and experientially. 


This process also helps keep the therapist well during the process.


Synergetic Play Therapy also offers a certification option as well. 


Lisa has a new book coming out in Spring of 2018, “Aggression in Play Therapy: A Neurobiological Approach for Integrating Intensity” from Norton Publishers. 


Lessons from the Playroom bi-weekly Podcast https://playtherapycolorado.com/podcasts/

Hour Live Webinar – 1 x a month https://playtherapycolorado.com/webinar/

Community Membership https://learn.playtherapycolorado.com/product/membership-site/

Play Therapy Institute of Colorado’s Website: https://playtherapycolorado.com/













United States


00:00:00you're listening to play therapy Community podcast episode 69 welcome to play therapy Community podcast providing connection information and inspiration to child therapist all around the world hears your house a licensed psychotherapist a registered play therapist and by Mom Jackie Flynn this episode is brought to you by Jackie Flynn Consulting I provide consultation to EMDR therapists seeking support with challenging cases does iron to hone their skills or working towards certification as a registered play therapist and an injury a consultant and training help and clinicians that work with Children and adolescents is at the heart of my work if you're already trained in EMDR therapy and you'd like some consultation support on how to use it best with kids or specifically how to integrate it with play therapy techniques while still holding true to all 8 phases of me
00:00:59VR with Fidelity go to my website Jackie Frank insulting to schedule an appointment I have a free download of a body scan PDF that I use with my child clients when will Target somatic Sensations in the body you can find that at Jackie find consulting.com as well now back to her episode
00:01:22hi everyone thank you for tuning in to another episode of play therapy Community podcast what today is a very special episode is with Lisa Dion she is the creator of synergetic play therapy she's also the founder of play Therapy Institute of Colorado and I am so excited to hear all about work and to hear about energetic play therapy specifically So Lisa and let us have your introduce yourself so we can learn more about you and almost just jump right in and and start talking about synergetic play therapy awesome Jackie thank you so much for the invitation to be on this really cool podcast as you said and I did create Senator to play therapy and also found at the play Therapy Institute of Colorado I'm also Mom I have in my clinical work
00:02:22was first introduced to play therapy back in my graduate program so back in 2002 and and right from the beginning loved it I remember my first session with a kiddo and was just taken by how boner bowl and how amazing it was to connect with a young child which honestly I went into the field thinking I would just work with teens so it almost caught me by surprise how much I really loved working with the little ones and I've tried pretty much control Chillstep ever since my work has been practiced also various settings where I'm from working in the schools to Social Services foster care adoption agencies also had the privilege of working in orphanages so I have experience to sounds like
00:03:22and and what I love you know we talked about play Serebii the play being such a universal language and I mean it yes doesn't matter what setting I'm in it see how it's such a such a real real thing and I think we know that it's play therapist I have seen it first-hand universal language can imagine working with kids and helping kids and not having play therapy as a modality just wondering when work nearly as well so I love the name synergetic play therapy night and remember when I was introduced to that word can you tell us like how did you name this about the name then I'll talk a little bit about the model to is that help the name make make sense one thing for your listeners to know about me is I like to think of myself as a little bit of a nerd in the
00:04:21if you say the word brain I'm probably on the edge of my seat I love I love the brain I love Neuroscience I love interpersonal neurobiology I love understanding what's happening in the nervous system it just completely intrigues me and fascinates me know the point where it's me I'll go on vacation with you as my family and I've had a couple family trips where I'm on the beach and my dad's looking over at me going are you going to read a Leisure book and I'm thinking no I got to finish this book on the brain what are you talkin
00:05:11so that actually goes into a little bit about where the name came in because as I was sitting with what I wanted to call what I was creating and then we can talk about what that is I was really trying to feel into the essence of what my experience was in the playroom to the lens that I was looking in and actually the word collaboration to coming to mine and it was not just a collaboration between me and the child it went deeper than that it was like the collaboration between my mind and my body and the collaboration between my breast and the physical Sensations in my body and the collaboration between was happening in my mind and the child's mind and migraine and how they impacted their body and vice versa and it just felt like this giant collaborative dance that was happening in me in the child and between us
00:06:11so that was like the essence of what I was going for and then collaborative therapy just doesn't sound cool I was going for and so so really I went into looking at what are other words that have that same as sense of collaboration and I found the word Synergy I because I'm a nerd as to study Physics and things like that and the word Synergy synergetic was actually a school starter of a term that was coined by a famous physicist named Buckminster Fuller mediately was like Goosebumps because I've studied his work before about what I love so much as he describes what's energetic is and what's energy is is it talks about this idea
00:07:07. it's the Synergy between two parts right comes together and it's the Synergy that's created that that is so much greater than I would either Park would ever be on its own so and so he used the word it's the collaboration of parts and I loved it and it made so much sense to the essence of what I was what I was going for and what I truly feel like I'm synergetic play therapy brings to the table so that's what we're talking about Parts within the therapist within the child and then between between us which also now a lot of other work that's coming out interpersonal neurobiology is to know the residence between two people what's happening in the energetic exchanges between two people it just comes back to the Synergy for me so I loved it like when I
00:08:07first letter in the word I am in a business setting and how we all can work together to create something that's how I'm greater than the sum of what we individually bring to the table but when you let's talk about you know the different parts like I'm just within the child a somatic Sensations and and everything like that that is so powerful I can't think of a word that is more fitting for that and you can really get so much further know if we were to just use words we only get so far for just you somatic Sensations really don't get so far we just use parent Uncle station are going to the bar but when all of those things are together as like how you feeling can happen beautiful I love that you know about the neural integration that were there were aiming for wood for the child I mean that's the synergy susd synergy in the parts of the child's brain that are coming together to create that neural integration you know
00:09:07right hemisphere collaboration you know top damn that the top of energy right munication happening between all parts of the brain is it does a giant collaboration happening so it makes me think of dr. Segal in person which is like a amazing day but he talked about the importance of integration and how that you could just change the world it sounds like you got that synergetic play therapy is really that's like one of the Big East that it's aiming for is integrating the brake switch actually can speak to a little bit about you know what like what it is so I won't get into the full story action a video of the story of how synergetic play therapy came to be and there was actually through personal experience that I had with my own
00:10:07daughter when I was 29 weeks pregnant and I was in a car accident I didn't deliver her but she and I together had a bad experience in the hospital together where I experienced a really deep moment of what I now know is called co-regulation and and for me up until that point therapist for many years at that point and I love the work that I did as I have mentioned and inform me something had felt missing from me that may not resonate for everybody was for me something missing and inform me what I realized was the deeper levels of accessing myself actually it was is what I've discovered was missing in my place terapi work and I I really went on this journey to discover
00:11:01what does it take to rewire a child's nervous system and what is it take to rewire to truly embody what it means to be that external regulator in the room so you describing the Neuroscience you know all over the place and when I so love about what's happening in the field right now is that what I learned and experienced with my daughter and then went on to just devour books on the brain and nervous system and try to figure out how to incorporate some of what I've been learning into the playroom what it really came from an intuitive felt sense which is very much the right brain experience and all of this amazing research that's coming out is giving the left brain language to that felt sense experience that I had with her and then I have in the playroom with the kiddos
00:12:01just what I just love so when student study center therapy we are we're setting interpersonal neurobiology and we're setting the nervous system and we're studying really what's in the way of becoming an external regulator how do we become the extra regular how do you return your own nervous system so that you can then hold the space and widen your own window of tolerance to support the child being able to move towards challenging experiences so we move a layer below the metaphor of the story not that we don't bring that in cuz we do cuz it is important but we perceive that the most important part is actually getting into the somatics and actually getting into that level of achievement that you find between a caregiver in an infant I want to get way down into that brainstem and so a lot of the
00:13:01philosophy in a lot of what we we learn and start therapies how to do that is you know what does it take to get way down in there and help a child rewire from the bottom up I love that it seems like so thorough it's I love it you should ask over the years you know what is this like for you and what do you like about in what do you not like about it and the most common see that's what I get for my students is that it almost doesn't feel like a play therapy model it just feels like a way of being it so it's almost like just a philosophy and how to be in a relationship like relationship was a really deep level and and what they explain to me they find that they transform in the process and that that that has a spillover effect into other areas of the
00:14:01they find that they relate to their Partners or their own children differently because of the the development just it's very much for serapis. I love the idea of transforming themselves to person that's more of what this is about it's not so much a list of techniques or a list of fun activities to do with the kiddo or something like that it's more of a developing a capacity within the cell to show up in a particular way in the room I had another student which I love is just cry my favorite quotes she said that synergetic play therapy gives birth to the authentic self within the child and the therapist oh my goodness well can you say that one more time that is that is so so kind of like broke busted there's growth on
00:15:01besides it is so as soon as I play therapy gives birth to the authentic self within the child and the therapist it's so good it's so good I love it. It's a look at it just goes back to its normal way of being you know I've had some people yoga curious about it was just an advanced way of being like his his two people to study basic play therapy skills first and I'm a firm believer that all is needed and this is one part of the puzzle and so I think that you know there's a there are foundational skills that are needed from you no other place therapy models and then I think we also offer foundational play therapy skills as well and so even with my
00:16:01students encouraging my students to study as many models as possible because it's the Synergy right it's being able to understand and pull from various philosophy used to figure out how to maximize the relationship I don't know what to me that's just one of those important parts about being a play therapist so it's it's it's it's a foundational and it's Advance I'll let you know if it makes any sense whatsoever it's it's both so
00:16:40are there so many things that I that I want to say about synergetic play therapy it kind of grew out of just your passion of learning how to help you are already in to just play therapy in general but you took it to that deeper level and and just let your passion drive you in this is where it landed now to about giving birth it sounds like this such as a growth like that have them that that healing happened in that connection Attunement you mention like and I like a mother and a child a knot infant baby that are two men at the brainstem level getting that that's for true healing can occur and I think so many of the kids and just not even just kids people have preverbal trauma that they don't have or or and that can really get to that each level of pain
00:17:40to help you look absolutely the I think that's one of the pieces that we try to grasp onto is an understanding that in the the brain is mostly wire dentist at earning 80% by the time a child is 3 and if we're engaging in therapies that aren't getting into the somatic they are missing something because most of what the child is coming into the playroom with his all the implicit memory it's the body memory and she felt sense in their body sometimes the play is literal and an often it's not often it's a feeling it's a sense it's it's you know it's an excellent experience but not so much a little experience is the part of the brain that was formed it is it's important just to get down into the
00:18:40Into the Depths the child's brain and I know we have emotional memories like an implicit memories for 6 months in utero so I think about your experience here little girl you know and you guys experience that together and she was definitely in the womb it still pick people think will they don't remember it so it didn't occur you know they don't have that that verbal memory of in the can't pull it up so they're okay but if it still shows up and I like in the body keeps the score book talks about if you don't remember it I'm at the Glee your body still knows my my daughter so when when my daughter was born she was born in incredibly dysregulated you what happened and then there's a diet and the pregnancy because of all of that and then
00:19:40she's the one that sent me on the journey to begin to put this puzzle together because I wanted to help her and really where this came from and in that in that process of discovering what it takes to you know to do to help rewire and redo her nervous system so she and I went through a couple rounds of play Stay or be ourselves and her first place therapy experience she was 9 months old and so there weren't words but what she would do in the playroom was she would play out shock over over and over and over and over again so she was actually literally playing out the somatic feeling of what the car accident felt like for her and creating also write in hers and her daily life was this sudden sudden shock and overwhelmed there no words for that it's just felt
00:20:40and then what it took was for me to position myself in such a way where I could actually experience it with her in order to regulate so that's it that's another piece about Saturday play therapy is it's this understanding that there is an exchange happening between the therapist and the child this whole idea that somehow I'm not going to be impacted by the child's play it doesn't actually make sense and Neuroscience and in my opinion it's it's missing a piece. Check yourself at the door it's if you can it's not possible are you having a nervous system your human being so when we're playing with children we are going to feel it we're going to feel the impact we're going to feel the sadness that anger the anxiety that we're going to feel it because we're human and I think one of the places that serve
00:21:40play therapy does a really great job at is it teaches a therapist what to do with that vs. just pretend like you're not having experience or just then go to supervision and talk about in supervision or whatever but there is this process just like we teach parents with their infant you know we actually in the field which each parents you need to work with yourself first or are you going to pick the baby up right you need at yourself into a place where you can regulate the baby and we haven't quite made that jump yet in the play therapy world and so I think that's one of the places that we do assertive play therapy tries to addresses what does the play therapist need to do in a moment to external regulator so they can metaphorically go rock the baby right
00:22:40feel it and that's where did I in our experience if we're pretending like we're fine when we're not that actually can create a sense of fear actually inside of the inside of the child because we're not congruent in the playroom and we're not managing our own internal internal State and so we should I play therapy that's the world right there right that's the that zone right that zone of of what's hours what's mine what's yours what do I do with mine what you would do I support your integration like the whole gray area that's that's energetic therapy lamp right there looking like that so to really trying to get a good feel for it you know it's hard to do that in a couple minutes that if I was to observe a session give me a little bird's eye view of what it might look
00:23:40is it look different than say child-centered or adlerian it does it's the therapist uses themselves a lot more than and maybe in other models which is controversial and I totally get that it's controversial the decision you're going to see the therapist actually become the regulator so you're going to see the therapist actually maybe breathing and moving and doing a lot of modeling to the child of what of what to do so in the moment when things I use in the room and the therapist is actually going to take the breath and even name the anxiety so that the child is able to borrow the therapist nervous system and Regulatory capacity in the moment so we really are grab frosting onto the mirror neuron system and how that part of it works and so you know that
00:24:40she part of Santa Claus therapy is that the therapist may say things in the room where you may go to say that out loud and it's like yes the therapist is being incredibly authentic right and congruent and so so what you're going to see is probably just a deeper level of the therapist use of self and as a again much like we teach parents to do you know each parents to really embody the moment with a child in to name their experience in to move and breathe and all of that picture of the baby present would be present which is different than just holding space it's it's a it's a puppy a different level of Engagement in the room and yeah so you know what that's probably what you're going to see is you're going to your going to see the therapist moving more I sometimes I rock sometimes I
00:25:39as I rub my legs as a way to keep a regulatory process they that keep keep a certain level of Regulation happening in my own nervous system so that I can for the child and then actually you know what Jackie I want to share quick I'll make this really quick
00:26:03just out of high like this cuz it's important listeners can visualize this is working with the kiddo and Skiddo came in because he had a generalized Spears I'm a scared of what seemed like most everything and his mom at that point 10 had it and she just fed up with with with the whole process was a lot of room in this kills wife to continue to say I feel scared or so nervous so this time and she would create all kinds of play to set me up to just be terrified we are down to their invisible ghost flying around you with you no weapons and they can tell you any moment I don't think I found myself engaging in the in the playwright in that in that dramatic play
00:26:59I found myself modeling the regulation so just instinctively I would put my hand on my heart in my hand on my stomach and I would take a deep breath think something like I'm so scared right but it wasn't role-playing it was fighting the moment right yeah I found myself holding onto again my stomach and even like Chipotle rocking just modeling right you stay connected to yourself in the midst of anxiety and we were at the beginning of session 3 and we were over near the sand tray and he took a little boy figurine and then he took and he put the snake in the sand behind the little boy was like going to Trump and scare the little boy bring to life in that room the feeling of the fear right and anxiety and all that and I let me just say that every time beforehand that I had said something on the anxiety he would say something like
00:28:00whatever it's just play you know making fun of me that kind of thing which was his world right she was his world was not allowed to express his own fear and anxiety and all of that an at session 3 I had an honest response and I said how to whisper to him I said I'm feeling again right I feel I'm watching this I feel nervous for the little stand but I'm afraid I can't say it I'm afraid I'm not allowed to say that I really meant it literally looked at me and he goes I know what to do when I get scared now mind you up until that point in the midst of him
00:28:43you know we're just playing he also I'm not afraid of anything so he never even liked it identified himself as being scared or send it. He would just dismiss when he was trying to get me to experience and and I said you do and no joke he stood up he looked at me and he does watch and he took a deep breath and he put one hand on his heart one hand on his belly so she literally borrowed my nervous system for 2 sessions watched how I handled experience in the room right and internalised this is what I can do I can take the deep breath I can stay connected to myself I can hold on to my cell and and that was that and that's well how was amazing and over and over again and so did take therapy is at the child literally borrows the therapist
00:29:43Cassidy and it's through that process the nervous system begins to get rewired in the child learn some pretty phenomenal coping strategies organically organically and it sounds like experientially he is like watching you your modeling the form but it goes deeper than that he's feeling hearing it and the gifts of the therapist is that the therapist nervous system doesn't get shot because the therapist had to regulate themselves and work was happening in their own nervous system so the therapist isn't leaving the session at the end having held all of that and then wondering why they're going home at night exhausted and having nightmares actually got to work their own system alongside the child's nervous system which is what was needed for the co-regulation yeah that's incredible
00:30:43play I have to say that yeah you know I'm learning about it just like the listener so it's it sounds amazing I think about going home and having nightmares in heaven like the images of thoughts kind of Hajj after sessions usually happen to me and I love that that you have that fit through this that's built in to help with therapist be able to process through that and then they can be as present and helpful to the next client and not have it hold him back in life exactly exactly beautiful Lisa thank you so much for sharing with this now I know you gave us a lot of information today but I have a feeling that there's a lot more where can people go to find information about synergetic play therapy making strange mentioned webinars things like that
00:31:36so I have a couple of cool things that are out there so for those of you that just want more and it's it's synergetic inspired if you will but not so much synergetic play therapy is also have a podcast called lessons from the playroom its a Bi weekly podcast and then there is a once-a-month there's an hour live webinar with me we can also get a 24-hour playback would you all kinds of really cool cool topics on that so those are both free and fun just you know more information which Jack and that's why you're putting the stuff out here too so right there with you spreading the play therapy knowledge to as many people as possible thank you for doing that cuz I mean I guess you know what that takes the shopping or really air your help and change the world and bring us all together to really make a bigger impact on health
00:32:36as far as the synergetic focused on trainings go so I'm at the play Therapy Institute of Colorado we have on-site we have seven times a year we 6 day training and tenses where therapist can come out and actually work with a child and get vision from two supervisors which really Hands-On it's really family-oriented it's like she was going to jump in then we also want to go to bed beautiful Boulder six days and we and we do somewhere it's like two weekends and then we have somewhere it's I'm a week and then the week ones are seven seven days and
00:33:36I'll give you a day in between should I take a breather and go explore a little bit and regular yourself halfway through so those are those are it that's an option the other option buying that like play therapy colorado.com or what word where can you sign up for that training websites play therapy or synergetic play therapy. Com is the other website that the other big training which is really popular is our 6 month online intro course so you don't have to come to Boulder right, it comes to you and that of course is really cool in that you get a video of two and a half hour video module once a month for 6 months and every month you also get individualize consultation tell me what you're learning a really cool really cool way to learn and again it's very convenient to and then there's a certification
00:34:36patient program and we have training centers in Boulder and Vancouver and Melbourne is launching this fall of 2018 so that's another place people can jump jump on board and get your ass and gopher gopher the synergetic play therapy certificate if that's something that's meaningful for them so so you have just give change the world with this that's amazing it's much bigger than I imagined to pay so you totally got me wanting to get another fun thing to so some of the listeners who are familiar may already have my book called integrating extremes which was just picked up by Norton publishing and I'm is going to be double in length released this release the spring called aggression in play therapy under biological approach for integrating intensity
00:35:36do you like the Neuroscience oh my gosh that is an entire book on the coagulation in the neuroscience and I was talking about related to how to integrate aggression and intensity in the room so that's coming out this spring. Sounds like a good book to take on a cruise and straight for relaxation cuz when you say that my God she's just like me I know I was reading parenting through divorce my mom or my daughters like Mom
00:36:09okay so that book is coming out but you already have a book gotta put all these links in the show notes so people can just go grab them at play therapy community.com Jackie O it's been a pleasure thank you Lisa where I feel like I met somebody amazing today well likewise you take it easy and you stay warm up there in Colorado okay right thank you tell your listeners who are attending and also thank you to join our growing Community for free just going to play therapy community.com and find us on Facebook to see to the play podcast until next time

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