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What is Synergetic Play Therapy?

Recently here at Play Therapy Toolbox, we’ve been partnering with Lisa Dion LPC, RPT-S to provide an array of helpful resources for Play Therapists. Lisa is the founder and President of the Play Therapy Institute of Colorado (Synergetic Play Therapy Institute as of Jan, 2019) and the creator of Synergetic Play Therapy. But what exactly is Synergetic Play Therapy? And how can it be used to better understand children and how we relate to and interact with them?

Synergetic Play Therapy is an approach that recognizes the importance of the therapeutic experience as a whole, including the therapist, the parents, the child, and all other factors.

One of the main philosophies of Synergetic Play Therapy is that it is essential that all the parts of the child’s life work together to create a balanced and all-encompassing response to the issues they face. This prepares them for the various roles as a niece or nephew, student, friend, grandchild, and every other rope they will live into.

It is important to note that Synergetic Play Therapy is not simply a tool or an exercise that can be traded in or out. Rather, it is a way of being and existing that focuses on a more organic and all-encompassing approach to therapeutic interaction.

Synergetic (synonymous with synergistic) refers to the collaboration of parts to create a more versatile and valuable end product. For example, a house achieves synergy through the combination of raw building materials. The materials themselves may be cheap and their use may be very specific but when combined correctly, they create something greater than the individual parts. The house is not only more valuable, but it becomes more versatile and can withstand much more than the previously independent materials.

This kind of synergy is derived from the therapist’s own understanding of self and using the self to help co-regulate the child’s internal experience, so that the child can move towards the uncomfortable memories, thoughts, and body sensations that are experienced as challenging. It is impossible to effectively help a child recenter and find balance in their emotions when you yourself struggle to refocus and regulate your own nervous system and emotional responses.

Another main goal in Synergetic Play Therapy is interacting with the authentic self. Instead of dealing with “right” and “wrong” reactions, you are working with the child to help them understand their authentic self and why they are acting or reacting how they are. This kind of interaction focuses on opening a higher awareness of self within the brain and can lead to many beneficial outcomes as a result.

Working with the authentic self gives them the ability and permission to internally develop a sense of self that many adults even sometimes struggle with. Do they like who they are? Can they center themselves? Is it okay to be emotional? These kinds of questions can be complex and a synergetic approach gives children the tools they need to deal with these questions.

In short, the best way to understand Synergetic Play Therapy is as a holistic approach to Play Therapy that focuses on both the therapist and the child authentically interacting with themselves and each other in an effort to become more mindful. This allows personal growth and reflection that many children need as they continue to develop.

To see how Synergetic Play Therapy is worked out in practice, check out some of our videos here.