2020 Breakout Sessions

Althea Simpson, LCSW, RPT-S

General Session and Keynote: Parenting While Black: The Magic and Mystery of Making A Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents

Summary: Black parents often sacrifice without expectation while making life livable for their family with very little resources. Their fear of discrimination, injustice and negativity can cause parents to be unbending and stricter with their children than they want to be, which sometimes leads to a call to Child Protective Services and mandatory referral to mental health treatment. There are many disparities in how Black parents are viewed when their children present with emotional and behavioral problems. The information in this general session can be inform play therapy practice by bringing awareness to the need to promote diversity in mental health treatment, which mean recognizing and acknowledging the strengths that exist in all cultures while understanding the needs of specific cultures and how they function in society.  

Objectives: 1. Discuss the importance of diversity in mental health treatment, more specifically, in the Black community and its subcultures. 2. Discuss the Black parent/caregiver’s perceived levels of threat when working with mental health professionals and community agencies and the implications for play therapy practice. 3. Evaluate self-awareness of biases, prejudices, stereotypes, judgment, power and privilege as mental health professionals and its implications for play therapy practice.  






Shivonne Odom, LCPC, LPC, NCC

General Session - Lunch and Learn Keynote: African American Perinatal Mental Health & Trauma

Summary: This general session will introduce attendees to perinatal mental health in the African American community to provide resources to identify, treat and support individuals living with perinatal mental health difficulties. The information in this session can inform play therapy practice by discussing signs and symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) in parents of children receiving play therapy treatment. Mental health professionals will develop an awareness of treatment for perinatal mental health symptoms that may help reduce rates of behavioral health disorders and transmission of caregiver trauma on children.

Objectives: 1. Identify and discuss perinatal mood disorders to inform play therapy practice. 2. Identify and discuss cultural and spiritual issues in perinatal mental health that can inform play therapy practice. 3. Discuss Intergenerational transmission of caregiver trauma and implications for play therapy practice. 4. Demonstrate the screening process for Postpartum Depression.  


Dr. LaQuista Erinna, DBH, LCSW

Serving While Black: Additional Risks of Mental Health Challenges Faced by Military Families of Color

Summary: Approximately 31% of Active Duty and 26% of Selected Reserve members identify as racial minorities. Black service members make up 17% of the military population. Challenges such as isolation from military communities, multiple deployments, dual-military parent families, limited resources, and preexisting health and mental health problems place these families at greater risk. This session will identify and discuss military families of color and the associated risk factors. Participants will gain insight on implementing clinical processes to identify and work with this population by incorporating play therapy practices. The informatin in this workshop can implemented into play therapy practice to help military children and families.

Objectives: 1. Identify and discuss risk factors for military families of color and how it informs play therapy practice. 2. Identify and discuss emotional challenges facing military families of color and how it informs play therapy practice. 3. Discuss clinical processes for identifying children who are military connected and obtaining a thorough military history by incorporating play therapy practices.  


Dr. Ajita Robinson, NCC, LCPC-S

The Cost of Making It: The Weight of Being the "First"

Summary: The “Cost of Making It” is an experiential workshop incorporating play therapy techniques to assist participants with identifying the unintended and often times unspoken costs of individuals being the “first” in their family to end the cycle of poverty. This workshop will explore the losses and resilience that first generation (wealth builders, trauma disruptors, college grads, etc) navigate on the journey of interrupting generational patterns of surviving poverty. The workshop will utilize an experiential and narrative approach to identifying, naming and releasing generational patterns and re-writing ones’ story. The information in this workshop can be incorporated into play therapy practice with adolescents and adults.

Objectives: 1. Explore the impact of helping clients break generational cycles of poverty and its implications for incorporating play therapy into clinical practice. 2. Explain how the cycle of surviving impacts quality of life among first-generationers in adulthood 3. Utilize expressive and narrative play therapy approaches to assist clients with processing and rewriting their journey.  


Maria Davis-Pierre, LMHC and Mawule A. Sevon, MA, NCSP, BCBA

Black Kids On The Spectrum: Merging Cultural Competence Within The African-American Autism Community

Summary: This workshop will highlight the importance of cultural awareness when working with Black families of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Beginning with a detailed analysis and explanation of culture broadly, the presenters will lead a discussion about cultural development and biases. Next, attendees will identify how biases can lead to “resistance” with families in the therapy setting. The workshop will continue with the theoretical understanding of Black culture and its implications for play therapy. The presenters will also discuss methods that can be used to coach parents, caregivers, and program leaders in the understanding of culture and shift their practice to be more culturally responsible. The aim of this presentation will illustrate the current state of the field of Autism in the areas of servicing diverse communities as well as open the door to having more clinicians incorporate the discussion of culture in servicing children and families.

Objectives: 1. Discuss the importance of cultural competence and the important role it plays in the Black autism community and implications for play therapy practice. 2. Inform play therapy practice by discuss potential clinician biases and unknown ableist views that may affect the outcomes of successful joining with Black parents who have a child diagnosed with autism. 3. Identify components of culturally responsive discussions with the parents and educators in the autism community and implications for play therapy practice when working with autism spectrum disorders.  


Dr. Reginald Cunningham, LPC, LCPC 

"If You Could Read My Mind": The Unique Mental Health Issues Facing African American Adolescent Boys

Summary: There are many reasons that Black men and boys do not seek professional help such as mistrust of the medical institutions, lack of medical insurance, the fallacious notion that misery and suffering are natural extensions of the Black male experience, and the ill-considered belief that religious fervor and prayer are sufficient to heal mental illness. Beyond the usual trials and tribulations associated with life, myriad additional factors contribute to the Black male experience being in a word, TREACHEROUS! This session will take a close look inside the minds of Black adolescent boys and identifying how to challenge decision-making, explore the origins of their hurt and pain and discuss strategies to help them heal. The information in this workshop can be incorporated into play therapy practice to help Black adolescent boys improve emotional an behavioral functioning.

Objectives: 1. Discuss how mental health conditions affect Black men, boys and the African American community and the implications for play therapy practice. 2. Discuss engagement strategies that can be incorporated in play therapy practice to assist young black males to identify, acknowledge and heal from hurt, shame, and guilt. 3. Identify at least two strategies that can be used to inform play therapy practice to assist in changing the narrative (stigma) around the subject of mental health in Black male youth.  


Tanya N. Lloyd, LCPC, ACS 

"There's No Place Like Home: The Role of Play and Expressive Therapies in working with Transracial Adoptees"

Summary: Attendees will identify and discuss unique clinical challenges and experiences often presented by working with transracial adoptees. Many parents who adopt outside their race say that the child’s race or ethnicity does not matter. Well, they may mean this in the best possible way, but race and culture do matter, especially when children have lost so much. This play therapy workshop will discuss the importance of learning about and respecting a child’s culture while helping adoptive parents find ways to keep adoptees connected to their heritage and culture. Play therapy and expressive therapy strategies will be discussed to assist mental health professionals in providing clinical services to identified transracial adoptee populations. Lastly, attendees will discuss and explore their connections to racial identity. Attendees will utilize insight to inform clinical practice with transracial adoptee populations.

Objectives: 1. Identify and discuss unique clinical challenges and experiences often presented by transracial adoptees and its implications for play therapy practice. 2. Discuss and explore connections to racial identity and utilize insight to inform clinical practice in a play therapy context. 3. Demonstrate play therapy and other expressive therapy techniques to assist clinicians in providing services to identified transracial adoptee populations.  


Dr. Ifeanyi Olele DO, MBA, MS 

General Session & Keynote: The Impact of Depression and Suicide in the Black Community

Summary: No matter how common, depression is a serious mental health condition. Clinical depression may affect one’s thoughts, behavior, mood and physical symptoms to the body. The African American community face tends to not acknowledge a history of depression in their families, which leads to unnecessary pain and lack of treatment. This workshop will inform play therapy practice by discuss how depression and suicide is affecting black men and women in the USA, which may in turn effect the family unit. The information in this workshop can be incorporated into play therapy practice to help clients experiencing symptoms related to depression and suicide. 

Objectives: 1. Explain depression and how it is treated by psychiatrists and therapists to inform play therapy practice. 2. Discuss suicide and its current risk factors affecting people with and without mental illness and its implications for play therapy practice. 3. Summarize how the stigma of depression is affecting the black community and its implications for play therapy practice.  


Chanel McCord, MA, LPC 

"Watch Your Mouth": Generational Healing through Positive Self-Talk

Summary: For generations, Black/African-American families and other communities of color have been reinforced to keep quiet on issues of mental health. Society has reinforced the narrative of criminality of minorities and largely ignoring mental and emotional health deficits within the Black/African-American and other communities of color. The narrative that holds true in most families of color is that experiencing mental/emotional concerns equals weakness. This workshop will discuss how to help clients replace the negative generational narrative with one that promotes strength through addressing and healing. Attendees will be made aware of narratives that have been plaguing generation after generation within the Black/African-American community and other communities of color and then given practical tools for implementation to help replace the narrative and promote generational healing. Incorporating the information from this workshop into play therapy practice can have positive affects on client functioning.

Objectives: 1. Identify and discuss the mental/emotional implications of negative self-talk narratives within communities of color that can inform play therapy practice. 2. Discuss the benefits of using play therapy in helping clients establish a replacement narrative that promotes healthy and positive self-talk within communities of color. 3. Identify play therapy strategies to use with clients to promote a positive replacement narrative that reinforces healing.  


Yuvelqui Rattigan, LCSW-C and Denielle Randall, LMSW

"Check Yourself, Before You Wreck Yourself: Understanding Play Therapy in an Urban Context” 

Summary: Play therapy is a treatment modality that allows children to engage in their natural state of play. Chidren and adolescents in the urban community are often taught to hold in negative feelings and emotions. Attendees will gain an understanding and appreciation of play therapy with the urban population.  

Objectives: 1. Identify 3 or more contributing factors to the issues of diversity in play therapy 2. Review the characteristics of play therapy in the urban context 3. Identify 2 or more clinical best practices when working with the urban population. 4. Demonstrate 3 play therapy techniques that enhance engagement and assessment when working with the urban population.  


Shayne McNichols, LMSW

Trauma Informed Care: Compassion From the Inside Out

Summary: This interactive session is designed to equip the helping professional to identify clients who present with PTSD/trauma symptoms, while identifying the secondary trauma impact within themselves. Through identification, play therapy professionals will discuss how to engage with these clients to ensure healthy relationship development and increased learning outcomes. Additionally, professionals will identify how to address their own mental and emotional health needs through assessing and creating a self-care/compassion-fatigue combatting plan. The information in this session can be incorporated into play therapy practice.

Objectives: 1.Identify trauma symptoms in clients/families and how symptoms impact engagement in play therapy. 2. Identify and discuss ways to integrate play therapy and the trauma therapy experience relative to age, stage, and traumatic event. 3. Demonstrate play therapy techniques and attendees will create personal plans to address self-care needs to prevent and reduce the impact of Compassion Fatigue.  


Meyleen Velasquez, LCSW, PMH-C, RPT-S

Processing traumatic memories in the sand tray: Utilizing Postmodern and Jungian approaches to create safety and regulation.

Summary: Individuals exposed to prolonged, severe, or intense levels of stress experience changes in their neuronal makeup. For children, these changes can lead to long-term adverse effects on their cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical development. As the language center of the brain shuts-down during moments of terror and distress, using creative and expressive means can increase the efficacy of trauma-informed services. Sandtray is a powerful intervention that provides a safe setting to uncover and heal from distressing events and memories. This workshop will teach participants how to guide the unfolding and processing of traumatic memories in diverse populations using Jungian and Postmodern theories. Objectives: 1. Describe how the sandtray play therapy process allows children to process traumatic memories. 2. Apply regulating skills using the sandtray in play therapy. 3. Demonstrate postmodern sandtray play therapy skills to help clients from diverse backgrounds.  


Sonia Hinds, APRN, PMH-BC, RPT-S 

Achieving Social Justice By Empowering Young Black Minds Through Directive Play Therapy 

Summary: Black boys in our society are faced with racism on a daily basis, resulting in some cases, fear, anxiety and even Race-Based Trauma. As an advocate for children, the therapist needs to be knowledgeable about racism, social injustice and the impact these have on the lives of the children served. Directive play therapy approaches will be presented in an effort to connect with, impart empathy, healing and empowerment. Use of art, music and bibliotherapy will be demonstrated and practiced.

Objectives: 1. Define cultural competence, cultural humility, racism and Race-Based Trauma. 2. Describe ways in which children express awareness of cultural differences in the play therapy room. 3. Identify examples of transference and countertransference related to cultural issues and its implications for play therapy practice. 4. Demonstrate directive play therapy strategies to empower young Black minds. 5. Inform play therapy practice by analyzing 10 qualities needed to enable culturally competent therapists to advocate for Social Justice.


Omeaka Jackson, LCPC

Using Play Therapy to Improve Family Communication Skills 

Summary: Many families struggle with healthy communication skills. When parents listen to their children, it helps children feel loved and valued. Utilizing play therapy can help families express feelings and problem-solve to improve communication. This workshop will demonstrate how play therapy can help families find effective ways to improve communication skills and overall family functioning.

Objectives: 1. Discuss the benefits of utilizing play therapy to improve parent-child communication skills. 2. Identify and discuss different play techniques used to improve enhance parent-child communication and improve family functioning. 3. Identify and discuss techniques to engage parents in play therapy to improve parent-child communication. 


Zoe Shaw, MS, NCC, APC 

Play as Worship: Intersections of Child Mental Health and Spirituality in the Black Church

Summary: Growing up in a Black church, the expectations were that children were to “be still” and “be quiet.” If you were “playing in church” that was the ultimate sign of disrespect, and cause for punishment. In this session, we will look intently at the relationship between child spiritual development and improved child mental health through utilizing play therapy techniques. As we discuss the benefits of play therapy for child self-expression and healing, we will draw parallels to how this is also a tool for grasping biblical concepts in a way the child can easily understand.

Objectives: 1. Identify roles and expectations of behavior and engagement of children growing up in the Black church and implications for play therapy practice. 2. Examine how mental health is viewed and addressed in the Black church, while discussing the duality of spiritual practices and play therapy as healing agents conjointly. 3. Define “play” and “worship” to explore how playing is a form of expression and tool for developing one’s worship practice and how it can be used to inform play therapy practice in the Black community.  


Connesia Handford M.S. and Ariel Marrero M.S.

Culture, Consultation, and Connection: Building Culturally Informed Systems Through Interprofessional Collaboration

Summary: One important and too often forgotten role that play therapists can accept is that of a consultant and collaborator in interprofessional team building. Interprofessional consultation is an essential component in providing culturally informed treatment in play therapy practice. Historically and currently, children and families of color are subjected to bias, prejudice, oppression, and trauma across educational, healthcare, and legal systems. Many of our systems of care emphasize white, western cultural norms, and pathologize black, brown, and indigenous identities and cultures. Collaborating with other professionals across systems to inform an effective and holistic treatment plan as well as adapt systems to be culturally sensitive is crucial for meeting the needs of communities of color. Through a culturally informed and playful lens, attendees will discuss how play therapists can integrate interprofessional collaboration into their clinical routine to advocate for culturally informed procedures across systems and educate other professionals on issues such as implicit bias and systematic oppression in play therapy practice.

Objectives: 1. Identify how interprofessional consultation and collaboration is a key component of the play therapist’s identity. 2. Identify how systemic oppression and bias impact the delivery of treatment for children and families of color in play therapy practice. 3. Discuss how play therapists can inform play therapy practice as agents of change in interprofessional settings.  


Dr. Tiffany Stoner-Harris, LCPC and Dr. Asabi Dean

Responding to Trauma Through a Social Justice Lens: Play Therapy, Counseling, Advocacy and Beyond

Summary: Social justice advocacy is informed by experiences of poverty and exclusion by: Providing individual/personal advocacy supports aimed at understanding rights and entitlements. These characteristics can include race (racism), age (ageism), gender (sexism), religion, and sexuality (heterosexism). This workshop will utilize strategies that inform play therapy practice by addressing issues client bring into therapy.

Objectives: 1. Discuss the importance of practicing from a trauma-informed lens and the role of social justice in mental health treatment and play therapy practice. 2. Discuss advocacy from a client perspective to improve mental health outcomes. 3. Explore the benefits of incorporating play therapy in trauma-informed mental health treatment.  


Laura Heller, LGSW and AlliePerez, MSW

Social Stories Expanded: A Trauma-Informed Intervention to Improve Teacher Engagement and Student Behavior

Summary: Social Stories support children's social and emotional learning and mitigating the impact of trauma through personalized stories. This workshop will demonstrate the use of social stories in play therapy to provide young children with developmentally appropriate ways to process life events, particularly traumatic ones. 

Objectives: 1. Attendees will identify non-traditional uses of social stories as they relate to common presenting concerns in play therapy (e.g. grief/loss, separation anxiety, transitions, feeling safe at school, etc.). 2. Attendees will write a social story that supports play therapy goals after developing knowledge of best practices for a standard social story and learning how to best modify the standard format to be trauma-informed and tailored to students' differing needs. 3. Participants will practice presenting social stories to clients and client support systems to extend play therapy gains outside the therapy space.  


Dr. Stacey Patton

Spare The Kids Because Disciplining Children Doesn’t Have To Hurt

Summary: This workshop will focus on combating racial disparities in child abuse cases, criminal prosecutions for child abuse, foster care placements, the over prescribing of psychotropic medications to children of color in foster care, the school- and foster care-to-prison pipelines, corporal punishment in public schools, diversion and restorative justice programs. The goal is to provide mental health professionals from all backgrounds with the tools to better understand the historical roots of corporal punishment against children. Attendees will engage in a discussion about making the case for transforming this outdated vestige of slavery into healthier, more appropriate 21st-century parenting practices.

Objectives: 1. Identify and discuss implications for play therapy practice when working with parents and caregivers on alternatives to using physical discipline. 2. Discuss the links of physical discipline to slavery, trauma and social justice. 3. Discuss the indignities of child abuse and the long-lasting impact violence has on the mental and emotional development of Black children and the implications for play therapy practice  


Patricia Baldwin-Dennis, LPC, Jennifer A. McPherson, MS, EMBA, LPC, NCC, and Montigus Jackson, LMHC, CAMS, Leeshe Grimes, NCC, LGPC

Domestic Violence: Awareness and Elements to Effective Treatment

Summary: This workshop will discuss domestic violence, which is an epidemic affecting individuals and families in every community regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary depending on circumstances. In some instances, domestic abuse may begin with behaviors that are dismissed or downplayed followed by the abuser apologizing for their actions or profess their love or care for the person they are abusing. Domestic violence can have a major impact on children, so this workshop will inform the play therapy practices of mental health professionals working with this population.

Objectives: 1. Identify and discuss the fundamentals of domestic violence and it’s associated consequences in communities of color and the implications for play therapy practice. 2. Discuss how abuse can occur as a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior by the perpetrator. 3. Discuss the traumatic impact that domestic violence has on children, female and male, female survivors. 4. Explore the use of play therapy play with children exposed to domestic violence.  


Scott Riviere, MS, LPC, RPT-S

Rough Housing and Wrestling! Play Therapy with Boys (5-Hour Workshop) 

Workshop Add: Session Summary and Objectives Coming Soon! Scott Riviere, MS, LPC, RPT-S, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and one of the first Registered Play Therapist-Supervisors in Louisiana. He is the Director of K.I.D.Z., Inc., Louisiana's first Play Therapy Institute, where his practice is limited exclusively to children and adolescents and their families. During his 25+ years of practice, he has worked in various clinical settings and has extensive training in the field of Play Therapy. He has served on various committees for the Association for Play Therapy and is currently serving on the Board of Directors. He has created several therapeutic products for mental health professionals and is a published author and frequent guest on various media outlets. Mr. Riviere has also produced a series of parent training videos titled “Positive Parenting”.

Scott offers innovative therapeutic strategies and is known for his sense of humor and practical techniques.  

Sheri Mitschelen, LCSW, RPT-S

Building and Enhancing Attachment through Theraplay®

Summary: Many parents are struggling with how to have a strong, positive relationship with their child in the busy world they live in these days. Or a child may have been in foster care or adopted and needs to work on attachment issues. This workshop will introduce Theraplay® activities which are directive play therapy activities that can be used in a variety of settings to enhance, strengthen and build attachment in the parent-child relationship. Participants will have an opportunity to view videos of and practice activities during the training.  

Objectives: 1. Explain the four areas of Theraplay® (Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge) and how to incorporate them into play therapy practice. 2. Participants will describe how to introduce Theraplay® into play therapy sessions. 3. Demonstrate two Theraplay® activities that promote improved attachment between a parent and child in each of the four areas (Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge). 4. List three Theraplay® activities that can be used with groups or families in play therapy practice.  


Sign Up to Play!


Pay to Play!