Aggression and Death in the Playroom: A Neurobiological Approach to Integrating Extremes in Play Therapy

Course taught by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Are your play therapy sessions filled with swords fights, battles, babies dying, handcuffs, you dying, explosions or other highly intense play? Are you often set up to watch or be a part of play that leaves you feeling nervous, unsafe, overwhelmed, confused or just wanting to run away and hide? If so, you’re not alone.

Although aggression and death are a common part of the play therapy process, many therapists don’t have a clear understanding of what to do and how to facilitate the intensity when it enters the playroom during play. The result can lead to inadvertently promoting aggression and increasing low brain disorganization. It can also lead to the therapist feeling beat up, exhausted and hyper-aroused themselves, which can significantly impact their longevity in the field, as well as their ability to stay attuned and present to a child in the playroom.

We designed this 3 hour workshop to help play therapists understand aggression and death play from a neurobiological perspective, through a Synergetic Play Therapy lens. With the help of neuroscience, therapists will learn how to effectively work with this type of play in a way that supports nervous system regulation and reorganization of the child’s lower centers of the brain. This course will also help decrease compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.

This fun, experiential workshop will open up new possibilities for your practice. We will explore a science-based process for working with children at the deepest, most profound levels, while showing you how to stay safe and sane. You’ll learn the art of sword fighting, gun play, bop bag play and more, while understanding what it takes to maximize growth and integration for your clients and for you as the therapist.


  • Understand the link between a child’s dys-regulated states of their nervous system and their play
  • Learn how to set boundaries without shaming or shutting down a child’s play
  • Understand the Synergetic Play Therapy concept of “The Set Up” in the playroom
  • Understand how to facilitate aggressive play in the play therapy process without increasing or promoting aggression