In this Aware on the Air Podcast Erin Tanner Jospe interviews Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S, about Synergetic Play Therapy® and new ways of thinking about a child’s moods based on perception and biology. Dion discusses how parents (and educators) can help a child manage his moods by regulating his nervous system. Check out the first two questions from the Q&A below, or listen to the podcast now!

What interest you about this subject? Why speak about it:

On a personal level, in addition to being a play therapist and working with so many kids, I’m also a mom of a six-year-old, who has been my greatest teacher. So I get the opportunity every day to look at her moods and my own. I’ve come to understand a few thing about moods that I’d love to share with other parents out there. A lot of the parenting information out there is really geared toward behavior and behavior modification. So the child is exhibiting a certain symptom—let’s say they’re hitting a lot or they’re shy—and there’s a lot of information out there about what to do to change the behavior. And there are not a lot of people out there really talking about what might be going on underneath the behavior. I really believe that when parents are able to understand what’s going on beneath the child’s symptoms, it really empowers them to be creative in parenting. As well, it helps them with long-term results; quick fixes to make the behavior stop often just lead to new problematic behaviors popping up. Chasing behaviors is often something I see parents doing. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I really want to share a new perspective and empower them.

How is Synergetic Play Therapy different?

It’s a new way of thinking about children’s moods that I approach from the perspective of biology and the nervous system. I want to lay down a foundation first because there are probably different levels of familiarity about how the brain works and how the nervous system works. So here’s Brain 101: how we take in information. Basically as we walk through the world we are bombarded by a fairly large amount of sensory data every single second. There’s a lot of research out there—debates—about how much data exactly. But one I recently read said two billion pieces of sensory data every second. So what that means is that as I’m walking along, I’m taking in information—registering sounds, different colors, how the air feels on my arms—that’s all sensory data. I’m also taking internal sensory data; that’s other information going to my brain—my heart rate, my body temperature and my hormone levels. So my brain is literally getting bombarded internally and externally with all kinds of information. Somehow our brilliant brains interpret this information, make sense out of it and help guide us through the world.

So the way that this works is sensory data comes into a primitive part of our brain located at the base of your head, above your neck. Many people refer to this as your reptilian brain. It’s also the seat of your “fight or flight” response, which many people are familiar with. It’s not just that response that we have; we actually have a fight, flight and freeze and fall asleep response that doesn’t get talked about very much. But we get sleepy when things get overwhelming as a strategy to cope…

To learn more, check out the podcast now!

The Aware on the Air podcast project is connected to the Rocky Mountain Center for Counseling and Stress Reduction. Aware on the Air’s mission and intention is to share the wisdom and information of leaders in the field of mindfulness, parenthood, stress reduction, health and wellness.

If you’d like to receive training on this subject, take a look at Understanding Children’s Moods and Behaviors: A Neurobiological Perspective.