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Friday 02/24/23  6 hour Session - 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Keynote: Robyn Gobbel LMSW-Clinical

DAY 1: Friday, February 24 - Keynote

All Behavior Makes Sense: Play Therapy with Children with Vulnerable Nervous Systems with Robyn Gobbel LMSW-Clinical

All behavior makes sense- except the ones that don’t! Some children have big, baffling behaviors that leave even seasoned play therapists confused, overwhelmed, burned-out or referring-out.  This confusion leaves play therapists feeling ineffective and parents feeling hopeless.

Theories of human development and behavioral neuroscience, including polyvagal theory (Stephen Porges), the neurosequential model of therapeutics (Bruce Perry), and attachment theory (John Bowlby) help us make sense of even the most baffling behaviors in our play therapy clients.  Understanding what behavior really is begins the roadmap for treatment planning.  Play therapists (and parents) can stop playing behavior whack-a-mole and experience better client outcomes by shifting the focus away from behavior and toward the brain and autonomic nervous system. 

Attendees will learn a playful paradigm that will decode even the most confusing behaviors in children, as well as in parents and even ourselves. When children learn how their challenging behaviors are the heroic ways their watchdog and possum brains are working hard to keep them safe, they can develop the inner felt safety to connect with and soothe these overworked and confused parts of self. Playfully connecting to our client’s inner communities decreases shame and increases integration, ultimately decreasing challenging behaviors.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: After attending this workshop, participants will be able to

  1. List  the 2 branches of the autonomic nervous system and how they respond during play therapy
  2. Describe how a sensitized stress response system contributes to confusing and baffling behaviors in play therapy clients
  3. List 3 parts of play therapy clients’ inner communities that often present in play therapy
  4. Identify 3 play therapy techniques that strengthen a play therapy client’s ‘owl’ brain (ventral vagal complex)
  5. Identify 3 play therapy techniques that bring safety to a play therapy client’s ‘watchdog’ brain (sympathetic nervous system)
  6. Identify 3 play therapy techniques that bring safety to a play therapy client’s ‘possum’ brain (dissociation continuum/dorsal vagal complex)

*falls under APT's primary instruction areas of "Play Therapy Special Topics”

Saturday 02/25/22  Two 3-Hour Sessions - 8:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.

DAY 2: Saturday, February 26

Morning  3 hour Session: 2/25/23 - 8:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.

Supporting Resistant Play Therapy Parents and Caregivers with Robyn Gobbel LMSW-Clinical

Many play therapists report that working with resistant and uncooperative play therapy parents is the most stressful part of their job.  This stress contributes to compassion fatigue, decreased satisfaction in our work, and some play therapists even leave the field.  Play therapists can rediscover confidence and contentedness in their work by applying the theory of the autonomic nervous system to play therapy parents, seeing their resistant and uncooperative behaviors as signs of stress.  Workshop participants will learn a step-by-step process for connecting with -- and setting boundaries with -- even the most challenging parent or caregiver. 

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: After attending this workshop, participants will be able to

  1. Describe challenging parent behavior through the lens of the autonomic nervous system
  2. Identify 6 steps to take when connecting with resistant play therapy parents and caregivers
  3. Identify a 3-step process to setting boundaries with challenging play therapy client behavior

*falls under APT's primary instruction areas of "Play Therapy Special Topics"

Afternoon – 3 hour Session: 2/25/23 - 1:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.

Working with Toxic Shame in Play Therapy with Robyn Gobbel LMSW-Clinical

Toxic shame often presents itself as such confusing and overwhelming behaviors that the origins of those behaviors - the toxic shame- go unnoticed.  The treatment intervention for shame is compassion.  Unfortunately, it is very hard for even the most experienced play therapist to stay regulated and compassionate when they are confronted with shame-based behaviors like fury, destruction, or dissociation.  Therefore, the first step in working with toxic shame in the play therapy room is understanding the neurobiology underneath.  The second step is exploring how toxic shame impacts our own nervous system. Next, play therapists can stay firmly rooted in their stance of compassion and curiosity- the antidote to shame. 

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: After attending this workshop, participants will be able to

  1. Describe the neurobiological underpinnings of toxic shame in play therapy clients
  2. Identify three shame-based behaviors that often go misidentified in play therapy clients
  3. Develop a plan to help the play therapist stay regulated and compassionate in the face of dysregulated and shame-based behaviors from play therapy clients

*falls under APT's primary instruction areas of "Play Therapy Special Topics”


Robyn Gobbel, LMSW-Clinical, has 20 years of practice in family and child therapy experience, specializing in complex trauma, attachment, and adoption.  Robyn is a therapist, trainer, and consultant who recently relocated to Grand Rapids, MI from Austin, TX.  Robyn’s diverse clinical training includes EMDR (including EMDR adapted for children with attachment trauma), Somatic Experiencing, Theraplay, Trust Based Relational Intervention┬«, Circle of Security Parent Educator, The Alert Program┬« and Yogapeutics Aerial Yoga Level 1 Teacher Training.  Robyn has integrated these training modalities with a foundation of attachment theory and the relational neurosciences to create an attachment-rich, sensory-sensitive, and relational neurosciences supported healing environment for children and families.  Robyn consults, teaches, and trains extensively throughout the US.  She previously served as an instructor for the Foundations of Interpersonal Neurobiology Certificate Program at Portland Community College as well as with the Adoptive & Foster Family Therapy Post-Graduate Certificate Program.  Robyn has served on the working board of the Global Association for Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies (GAINS). Her first book, Raising Kids with Big, Baffling Behaviors: Brain-Body-Sensory Strategies that Really Work, will be published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in late spring 2023.

And her playful side?

Robyn loves coffee, P!NK, and everything about the brain. Once (recently!) her teenager went ballistic on her for getting ANOTHER (glitter!) coffee mug in the mail. Robyn loves cultivating deep, resonant connections with anyone who is up for it, and is especially fond of all the grown-ups in the world who love and care for kids impacted by trauma- helpers, healers, educators, and parents.  Her favorite thing ever (besides glittery coffee mugs) is teaching anyone who will listen to harness the power of neuroscience so they can cultivate deep, resonant connections. What would change in the world if we could all do that? To see, be with, feel, and deeply know each other…and ourselves. Robyn thinks everything could change.  You can get your hands on all sorts of free resources at, including her podcast, Parenting after Trauma with Robyn Gobbel.

2020 Raybrook Avenue, S.E., Suite 305 | Grand Rapids, MI 49546

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