1st Edition

Polyvagal Power in the Playroom A Guide for Play Therapists

Edited By Paris Goodyear-Brown, Lorri A. Yasenik Copyright 2024
    282 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    282 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Polyvagal Power in the Playroom shows therapists how to treat children using play therapy to address the hierarchy of autonomic states. What do children need and how do play therapists purposefully use the principles of play to increase the feeling states of safety and regulation? Step inside the playroom and discover how trained play therapists are addressing treatment using polyvagal theory when working with children and teens.

    The book is organized into three parts:

    1. Interruptions explores developmental derailments brought about by relational betrayals such as domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and attachment ruptures implicated in a myriad of adverse childhood experiences. In these cases, the neuroception of safety scaffolded through "good enough" rhythms of healthy caregiver/child interactions is either compromised through a thousand relational cuts (parental addiction or parental mental illness) or abruptly ended (divorce, death or incarceration of a parent)
    2. Happenings explores events that involve an external intrusion, such as natural disasters, wars, and pandemics
    3. Expressions of risk and resilience explores mental health symptom clusters such as depression, anxiety, dissociation, and explosive behavior through the lens of dorsal vagal or sympathetic nervous system states, as well as specific play therapy methods for healing the nervous system

    The therapeutic powers of play are illustrated through case examples and in practical, play-based interventions woven throughout the book.

    Child and play therapists will come away from Polyvagal Power in the Playroom with the tools they need to help children and their caregivers achieve deeper levels of safety and connection.

    Foreword: Play Therapy Through the Lens of the Polyvagal Theory

    Stephen W. Porges

    1. How the Science of Relationships Impacts Our Thinking about Development: Interruptions, Happenings, and Expressions of Risk or Resilience 

    Marilyn R. Sanders

    2. Listening Inside Our Bodies, Outside our Bodies, and Between Bodies: Interoception, Exteroception, and Setting Up a Polyvagal Informed Playroom 

    Paris Goodyear-Brown and Lorri A. Yasenik

    3. The Sounds of Safety in an Unsafe World: Recovering from Domestic Violence Through Polyvagal Informed Play Therapy 

    Lorri A. Yasenik and Jennifer Buchanan

    4. The Genius of the Disembodied Self: Coping with Childhood Sexual Abuse 

    Paris Goodyear-Brown and Sueann Kenney-Noziska

    5. Healing Attachment Ruptures with Safety and Connection through Play 

    Jackie Flynn and Bridger Falkenstien

    6. Neurodivergencies: Incorporating Polyvagal Theory 

    Karen Stagnitti

    7. Plagues, Pandemics, and the Polyvagal Theory in the Playroom 

    Natalie Nadiprodjo and Judi Parson

    8. Reclaiming a Feeling of Safety in Natural Disasters: Preparatory and Advanced Interventions Using Play and Play Therapy 

    Claudio Mochi and Isabella Cassina

    9. Polyvagal-Informed Practice to Support Children and Caregivers in War: Toward the Creation of a Huge and Reassuring Playroom 

    Isabella Cassina and Claudio Mochi

    10. Anxiety, the Autonomic Nervous System and Play as Mechanisms of Change 

    Lynn Louise Wonders

    11. Polyvagal Theory and Play Therapy with Children who Exhibit Aggression 

    David Crenshaw and Lisa Dion

    12. Helping Depressed, Dissociative, and Withdrawn Children: Integrating Holistic Expressive Play Therapy and Polyvagal Theory 

    Marie José Dhaese and Richard Gaskill

    13. Nature and Play as Polyvagal Partners in Play Therapy 

    Maggie Fearn and Janet Courtney

    14. Child Centered Play Therapy: Person of the Therapist Presence, Neuroception of Safety, and Co-Regulation 

    Sue Bratton and Alyssa

    15. Safety in Sand and Symbols: Polyvagal Shifts in the Sand Tray 

    Marshall Lyles and Linda Homeyer

    16. Expressive Arts Therapy as Polyvagal Play: Shifting States Towards Safety 

    Carmen Richardson

    17. Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ as a Polyvagal Process 

    Mary Rottier and Rebecca Dickinson

    18. Digital Play Therapy™: Harnessing the Felt Sense of Safety in the Digital Space

    Jessica Stone and Rachel Altvater


    Paris Goodyear-Brown, LCSW, RPT-S, is the creator of TraumaPlay™, the Executive Director of the TraumaPlay Institute, the Clinical Director of Nurture House, and author of Parents as Partners in Child Therapy: A Guide for Clinicians.

    Lorri A. Yasenik, PhD, RPT-S, CPT-S, is the Director of Rocky Mountain Play Therapy Institute in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and the co-author of Play Therapy Dimensions Model: A Decision-Making Guide for Integrative Play Therapists.

    “Goodyear-Brown and Yasenik have brought together play therapists across the field to share their wisdom on integrating neuroscience and play therapy. Rich case descriptions offer the reader an authentic exploration of how we experience polyvagal power with the children we serve in play therapy.”

    Dee C. Ray, PhD, Regents Professor and co-director of Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas

    “This pioneering and innovative volume skillfully weaves complex constructs from polyvagal theory together with practical, embodied, and transformative play-based therapeutic interventions. It is a must-have masterpiece that will change child and play therapists’ perspectives on healing.”

    Ana M. Gómez, MC, LPC, author of EMDR Therapy and Adjunct Approaches with Children: Complex Trauma, Attachment, and Dissociation