Beyond Safety into Play
An Interpersonal Neurobiological Model for
Stimulating Growth During Psychotherapy
During psychotherapy, trauma resolution is important for bringing patients back to safety, but it is the play side of what we do that brings out their full potential for growth. The role of positive emotions, intrinsic motivation and a playful attitude gets overlooked all too often. Yet we can easily see the importance of play during early development for every dimension of being. We can expand our repertoire as psychotherapists by recognizing the variety of ways we express and observe an implicit urge to play. Whether by crafting metaphors, imaginary scenarios, or sharing a laugh together, the most intimate and profound clinical moments often involve a playful attitude. This allows the dyad to venture undefended into intersubjective space in order to experiment with novelty and take emotional risks from a background of safety.
This interactive seminar explores the informal role of play within psychotherapy (not to be confused with play therapy). We’ll don the developmental lens of interpersonal neurobiology to uncover the importance of play to attune, stimulate neural growth, expand affect tolerance and build interpersonal skills. We’ll examine the paradox of how rough and tumble play settles children down to focus on how early imaginary play sets up a lifelong foundation for internal grounding, intuitive function, and the formation of an open, flexible identity. This didactic material prepares the way for exploring how play has shaped our own identities, how play arises spontaneously in open-ended psychotherapy, and how play fosters positive and motivating experiences with patients.
At the end of the workshop the students will be able to:
- Contrast dual functions of soothing versus stimulating babies in the central and autonomic nervous systems during interactive affect regulation;
- Establish the universality of play among all mammals, for neural growth alongside other behavioral, social, emotional, and even cognitive dimensions of growth;
- Examine the implicit game structure of psychotherapy, highlighting the prototypical game of hide-and-seek;
- Share playful techniques for enhancing patient and therapist motivation, and for cultivating important qualities of curiosity, emotional risk-taking, and interpersonal creativity.
Terry Marks-Tarlow, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist (PSY8853) in private practice in Santa Monica. She teaches developmental neurobiology at the Reiss Davis Child Study Center and is a Research Associate at the Institute for Fractal Research in Kassel Germany. She is on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, where as Community Outreach Co-Chair, she co-created, curated and edited the exhibition book for “Mirrors of the Mind: The Psychotherapist as Artist.”
Dr. Marks-Tarlow is the author of numerous papers and chapters as well as four books. Her most recent books, Clinical Intuition in Psychotherapy (2012, Norton) and Awakening Clinical Intuition (2014, Norton), both of which she has illustrated herself, affirm the importance of play, imagination and creativity in psychotherapy. Dr. Marks-Tarlow has presented workshops and seminars nationally and internationally, including a 2012 a conference at the Tavistock Institute in London relating to her second book, Psyches Veil, on nonlinear dynamics, and the 2015 UCLA Interpersonal Neurobiology Conference.
Dr. Marks-Tarlow embodies the balance of life between play, imagination and creativity through her dance, art and yoga. Her creativity also has been expressed musically in her 2010 opera libretto “Cracked Orlando,” with music composed by Jonathan Dawe.
Continuing Education Units are available for this training. There is a $20 charge for each CE certificate. Certificates are issued after the evaluation is submitted.
Psychologists: The Insight Center is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Insight Center maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This course is provides 6 CE units.
MFTs / LCSWs: MFTs / LCSWs / Professional Counselors: The California Board of Behavioral Sciences now accepts APA CEs. This course provides 6 CE units.
Nurses: The Insight Center, Provider Number 14914, is an approved provider by the California Board of Registered Nursing. This course provides 6 CE units.