Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S, on How She Named Synergetic Play Therapy
“When you’re working at the level that Synergetic Play Therapy works at, you’re really experiencing synergy in the playroom. It’s a deep level of attunement similar to the unspoken connection twins feel. Twins are deeply attuned to each other, just as a therapist and child are deeply attuned in the playroom.” -Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
As I was brainstorming the name for this new model of play therapy that I developed, I considered what exactly it was about the model that felt so special to me. I kept coming back to the idea of collaboration between different parts. For example, the collaboration between my prefrontal cortex and the limbic area of my brain and the collaboration between my limbic brain and my reptilian brain. I also thought about the ability for my body to collaborate with my mind. I considered the different relationships between the many parts of me that happen internally, and also the fact that these relationships happen inside of children, too.
I also explored the idea that there is also a collaboration that occurs between my parts and the child’s parts. My prefrontal cortex is collaborating with the child’s prefrontal cortex as an example. My prefrontal cortex is also in relationship with their reptilian brain, etc. As I looked closely at what was occurring between the therapist and the child, I realized that everything felt like one giant collaboration. And so I started thinking about that as a word, but “collaborative play therapy” didn’t really do it for me. So I literally pulled out the thesaurus and started looking at other words for collaboration, and that’s where I saw the word, Synergy. It jumped out at me immediately. I started to do some research and learned that it was a term coined by Buckminster Fuller, who was a famous physicist that I had studied through Dr. John Demartini’s work. John Demartini is my mentor, so immediately there was a connection for me.
The word is actually totally reflective of what is happening in the playroom; it means systems in transformation. The idea of synergy is that you have two separate systems that come together to create something greater than either could ever have created on its own. The therapist is a system and the child is a system. What happens in the playroom is that when these systems come together with all of the parts, through a deep level of attunement on the part of the therapist, a synergy appears allowing the therapist to know exactly what to do next in the moment. In these “synergetic” moments, the therapist can actually feel the inner world of the child. When I teach my students I talk about how they are entering the “field”; a field between the therapist and the child that contains all the information needed to facilitate the process at any given moment. This is when deep levels of healing happen or as I like to call it, “the magic.”
I was also drawn to the word because, as a discipline, synergetics is not often studied. Because it’s so all-encompassing, you must study how multiple disciplines come together. It’s not just about studying one discipline such as psychology, math, physics, etc. What makes that so cool as a play therapy modality is that when you look at the principles, because they are so universal in nature, you can actually apply them to any other play therapy model out there or vice versa. My students tell me often that it really isn’t even a play therapy model, but more of a way of being with self and other. It’s a way of experiencing relationship and therapists can take that knowledge anywhere.
Because it’s principals are so universal, therapists can apply them to working with teens, adults and couples. Some of my students even apply the teachings to their work with animals. I apply them to all facets of my life. In fact, the synergetic principles I use in the playroom are the same principles that govern how I am as a mother. They just become a way of life.
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