Play Therapy Conference

Annual Fall Play Therapy Conference

Safety and Presence in Play Therapy:

Relational Neuroscience at the Heart of Healing

Bonnie Badenoch, PhD, LMFT


November 1, 2019

Safety and Presence in Play Therapy: Relational Neuroscience at the Heart of Healing

The pressures of the current world situation are touching all of us every day. Even the youngest among us feel the effects of what is disturbing for the grown-ups who care for them. When these daily stresses are compounded by potentially traumatic conditions in our families, schools, neighborhoods, and places of worship, we need a particular kind of support to come through it whole. Relational neuroscience is teaching us that the provision of safe presence is the foundation and catalyst for healing these traumas in play therapy. We are also understanding more deeply why our own mental health is essential to being able to provide this kind of holding for the people we see in play therapy.

Today, we will nourish our left hemispheres with understanding about what can make our presence a sanctuary for those who come to us. We will also nourish our right hemispheres with practices to increase our ability to be truly present to others and ourselves. Stephen Porges, Jaak Panksepp, and Iain McGilchrist will be our primary guides, along with support from the work of Dan Siegel, James Coan and Lane Beckes, Marco Iacoboni, and Bruce Ecker. As we synthesize the visions of these pioneers, our understanding and experience of becoming a healing presence for people of all ages can broaden our compassion and deepen our wisdom in the playroom.

Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to:

  1. Define the neurobiological correlates of safe presence and describe practices for developing this capacity in play therapy.
  2. Describe the three branches of the autonomic nervous system and how they influence safety in play therapy.
  3. Describe the seven emotional motivational systems in the midbrain and how they become activated in play therapy.
  4. Describe the relationship between right hemisphere presence and activation of the ventral pathways in the autonomic nervous system and explain why this is important in play therapy.
  5. Define neuroception and explain how this understanding increases compassion and the play therapist’s window of receptivity, as well as the role of implicit memory in neuroception for creating safety for both therapist and client.
  6. Define mirror neurons and resonance circuitry, by explaining their role in establishing safety in play therapy.


Bonnioe Badenoch

Bonnie Badenoch, PhD, LMFT is an in-the-trenches therapist, mentor, teacher, and author who focuses on integrating the discoveries of relational neuroscience into the art of therapy. She co-founded Nurturing the Heart with the Brain in Mind to offer this work to the broad community of therapists, healthcare providers, and others interested in becoming a therapeutic presence in the world. For 25 years, her work as a therapist has focused on supporting trauma survivors and those with significant attachment wounds in reshaping their neural landscape to support a life of meaning, resilience, and warm relationships. An international speaker, Bonnie presents about applying IPNB principles both personally and professionally, and offers longer-term immersion trainings for therapists and others at her home in the Pacific Northwest because these experiences support personal transformation through embodiment of the principles of interpersonal neurobiology. Her conviction that wisdom about the relational brain can support healing experiences for people at every age led to the publication of Being a Brain-Wise Therapist: A Practical Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology and The Brain-Savvy Therapist’s Workbook. She co-authored The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Group Psychotherapy and Group Process. Bonnie’s latest book is The Heart of Trauma: Healing the Embodied Brain in the Context of Relationships.

Continuing Education

The NW Center for Play Therapy Studies will offer 6.0 contact hours of Continuing Education (CE) for the conference day. The following approvals are available:

  • National Board for Certified Counselors [NBCC]
  • Association for Play Therapy [APT Approved Provider 03-134]

George Fox University/NW Center for Play Therapy Studies has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 4447. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. George Fox University/NW Center for Play Therapy Studies is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. George Fox University/NW Center for Play Therapy Studies is an APT Approved Provider [APT Approved Provider 03-134] and retains sole and ultimate responsibility for the quality, conduct of, and record keeping for such programs. 


The Graduate Department of Counseling at George Fox University is pleased to be the home of the Northwest Center for Play Therapy Studies (NWCPTS). Under the direction of Dr. Daniel Sweeney, the NWCPTS is the largest university-based center focused on the study and promotion of play therapy in the northwest United States.

The mission of the NW Center for Play Therapy Study is to promote the healthy development and welfare of children and families through the process of play and filial therapy. In support of the relational, psychological and spiritual wholeness of children and families, the Center seeks to fulfill this objective through the provision of play therapy, training, supervision, and learning resources for students and mental health professionals in the community.


The fee is $139.00 per day for each workshop, with a student discount rate of $99.00 per day. Attendance is limited, so early registration is recommended.

Registration after 10/23/19 is $155.00 each day. Cancellations must be received in writing 7 days prior to the conference to receive a refund, and are subject to a $25.00 processing fee. No refunds will be made after 10/23/19. In the unlikely event of a workshop cancellation, the NWCPTS is only responsible for a refund of the workshop fee.

Register Online

Conference accommodation information will be sent with registration confirmation.

For further information, contact us at 503-554-6104 or email

George Fox University's Graduate School of Counseling offers Masters degrees and Certificates in counseling.

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