The Eye of the Tiger: Understanding and Responding to Agressing and Death in Therapeutic Play

Presented by: Valerie Wilson-Lindberg, M.S.W, LCSW, RPT-S

Wednesday, February 6, 2019
9:00am to 11:00am
(two contact hours)

The Guidance Center, 2nd Floor Training Room
1301 Pine Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90813


Cost: $30


TGC Staff, trainees and Interns: Free 


“We use the relationship to allow our clients to re-experience dysregulating affects in affectively tolerable doses, in the context of a safe environment, so that overwhelming traumatic experiences can be regulated and integrated into the patient’s emotional life” (Dr. Allen Shore, 2003 ). For young children or children and adolescents who are developmentally younger, play therapy or other relationship-based therapies are seen as a valid intervention for addressing the emotional issues that may result from significantly stressful life events or traumas.  In the last several years researched focused on the neurobiology of trauma has examined our physiological response to stress and trauma, often referred to as “fight, flight, freeze and fold,” as having two different branches. One branch of the human trauma response is characterized by “hypo-arousal” (freeze, sleepiness, dissociation, collapse) and the second branch of the trauma response is characterized by “hyper-arousal” (hyper-alert, hyper-vigilant, defensive and aggressive). The challenge arises for most clinicians who work with children in a play therapy modality when the referred child is experiencing significant dysregulation. As therapists we are often thrown off balance ourselves when we are presented with a therapeutic relationship in which a client’s painful emotions result in opposition and aggression as well disturbing play related content.

The following workshop will explore the human stress response as it pertains to the children we often treat in a child guidance setting, what diagnoses might be present in a child that exhibits opposition and aggression, as well as what underlying, often over-looked emotional issues might impacting the child. The workshop also provides direction regarding how a therapist might respond in a play therapy session (use of self, tracking responses and verbalizations) that may assist in managing challenging behaviors, while creating safety and giving voice to the child’s underlying emotional needs. In addition, this workshop will explore how our own regulatory response as clinicians is impacted by our client’s dysregulation and how to use this awareness help ourselves mange our own stress response and provide an opportunity for co-regulation.


  • Name the 2 main nervous system “arousal” responses to stress/trauma
  • List 3 “primary emotions” that underlie anger
  • Discuss the main therapeutic stages as identified in the Experiential Play Therapy model
  • Identify 3 non-verbal or verbal play therapy responses that can be used to address aggression in play and decrease the chance of escalation.
  • Describe 3 reasons death themes may be seen in play therapy with traumatized children
  • Explain why integrated self-regulation is important when engaging in play therapy.


Licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and clinical social workers who want to develop knowledge and skills to respond to dysregulation in play and how to manage therapist stress response and provide co-regulation.  Unlicensed and trainees are also welcome to attend though program content will be at the postdoctoral/post-licensure level. 


Valerie Wilson-Lindberg is a Licensed Clinical Social Work and Registered Play Therapy Supervisor with the National Association for Play Therapy. Ms. Wilson-Lindberg has worked within the child welfare system (therapeutic foster care, group home settings, child protective services and community mental health) since 1997. Ms. Wilson-Lindberg has also provided psychotherapy in her private practice, with a specialization in Play Therapy with traumatized children, since 2003.


The Guidance Center is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.  The Guidance Center maintains responsibility for this program and its content.  The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) accepts programs offered by approved APA sponsors of continuing education for licensed marriage and family therapists and licensed clinical social workers.


There is no commercial support for this CE program or instructor.  There are no known conflicts of interest.


For additional questions regarding this training, please contact the program administrator, Dawn Vo-JutabhaPh.D. at