Neurobiology of Play Therapy: How To Improve Our Practice Through Science

Event Date: November 12, 2015

Event Info

Date: Nov 12, 2015 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Location: The Ecumenical Center – 8310 Ewing Halsell Dr.


Over the past two decades, research has clearly documented the vulnerability of the developing brain and the negative impact of social and emotional trauma on brain functioning. It is now apparent that traumatic and neglectful developmental experiences alter normal brain development in all parts of the brain depending on the nature of the maltreatment, developmental stage of the child, and the quality of the nurturing environment. Science now informs us that these factors cause disorganization in specific areas of the brain and that play therapy interventions are not equally effective in all brain regions. While play therapy embodies many neurobiological principles, a “one size fits all” therapeutic approach will be less effective than one designed for the brain regions affected. As play therapists learn and apply a few fundamental concepts of brain development, brain organization, and the impact of trauma we are better able to identify play therapy interventions likely to be effective treatment options.


  1. Learn key neurobiological concepts critical to intervention design
  2. Identify important developmental play activities impacting specific brain regions
  3. Integrate developmental play activities into play therapy treatment design


Rick Gaskill, Ed.D., LCP, RPT-S, LCPC

Dr. Gaskill has worked in mental health for 40 years and is currently the Director of Sumner Mental Health Center in Wellington, KS. He was the first RPTS in Kansas and teaches play therapy at Wichita State University. He was named a Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in 2004, the Kansas Head Start Partner of the Year in 2005, and was honored for his Exemplary Service to Children and Families at the Kansas Governor’s Conference in 2014. Dr. Gaskill has published work on the neurobiology of play therapy and has lectured extensively in the US, Canada, and Australia.

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