IAPT is excited to present our annual one-day spring conference to provide more learning opportunities to our play therapy community.

APT Approved Provider #07-195

Approved Provider status is granted by the Association for Play Therapy; this allows registrants to earn credit at IAPT programs towards their Registered Play Therapist or Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor credentials.

2024 Spring Conference

Friday, April 12th, 2024

8:30am to 4:45pm

Hotel Julien Dubuque

200 Main St, Dubuque, IA 52001


IAPT is excited to hold our third annual Spring Conference. Feedback from conference attendees has shown a desire for a broader range of training options, which we have incorporated into this day. In order to better accommodate our members’ needs, the spring conference will be held in different locations around the state each year. We are happy to be meeting in Dubuque for 2024!

Morning Keynote Panel Discussion:

 Across Disciplines: Somatic Approaches & Play Therapy

Jess Pladsen, LMFT, RPT-S, TTP

This panel will bring together several professionals across disciplines to provide education, exploration, and application of ethical practices relating to somatic and therapeutic touch work for children and adolescents. Theory and modalities around somatic approaches have been gaining a great deal of support regarding their efficacy for repair and healthy functioning for attachment and regulation systems. All of which are foundational elements in play therapy. Like play, in which play is the language used by children to communicate and process experiences therapeutically. Somatic approaches use the “language” of sensation, felt sense, and body experience to communicate and process experiences in the same way. Body approaches are often elements of play therapy, and these modalities can be incorporated in play or as an enhancement to play therapy. The body acts and reacts to danger, threat, safety, and connection often as a bottom-up process informing regulated and dysregulated states are highly applicable to work with children and teens. Top- down processes including cognitive and executive functioning are still under development and not as assessable to support with regulation processes prior to adulthood. Research in this field, such as The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessell Van Der Kolk and Polyvagal Theory, Stephen Porges further our understanding and application of how our experiences, especially trauma shape how we react and respond to our environment and relationships. Education on this research, with special emphasis on regulation and attachment will be provided. The body is the only system present and accessible at all stages of life. The ability to work somatically to support safety, connection, regulation, and development of secure attachment(s) can be instrumental in advancing the play therapy mental health professionals provide. However, there are many special considerations when it comes to working somatically with vulnerable populations, especially minors. These considerations are even higher for those with history of trauma and/or abuse. Ethical considerations of somatic approaches including informed consent and liability concerns will be explored. A case vignette will be discussed from the perspectives of various professional fields. Understanding what is within each profession’s scope of practice and when referrals would be appropriate based on case assessment and behaviors will be explored. Various models relating to somatic work will also be identified including occupational therapy, somatic experiencing, transforming touch, yoga, and play therapy to support in best practices. Professionals will be given opportunities and examples to disseminate interventions and practices within their professional scope. Information on additional training and types of modalities that focus on somatic types of work will be provided along with a brief question and answer period.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify regulated and dysregulated states occurring for children and adolescence and how to identify these in children, adolescents, and in play therapy. Ability to identify various reflexes/body systems that inform regulated or dysregulated states.
  2. Be able to identify ethical use of somatic modalities and therapeutic touch in conjunction with play therapy.
  3. Be able to identify when referrals may be appropriate and when somatic approaches may enhance play therapy or be used in conjunction with play therapy.

Workshop Level: Beginning/Intermediate

Afternoon Breakout Sessions:

Familial Encouraging Connection Therapy (FECT): Promote Parent Involvement with Adlerian Play Therapy- Nikki Pauli & Erica Wassenaar (Intermediate):  Learn about the newly created experiential program designed to teach parents how to connect with their children by combining nondirective play skills with Adlerian play therapy tools such as scaffolding, encouragement, Crucial Cs, goals of misbehavior, and family atmosphere.

  1. By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to describe the research support for including parents in the play therapy process.
  2. By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to explain the rationale for teaching parents nondirective play therapy skills.
  3. By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to explain to parents how learning to play with their children can enhance their lives and the lives of their children. 
  4. By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to demonstrate one technique for helping parents explore their rules about parenting.

Conceptualizing Play Therapy from a Systemic Approach- Kate Haberman (Beginning): In this  interactive workshop, Kate Haberman, LISW, MFT, RPT-S, will explore how systems theory applies to working with our individual child clients in play therapy settings.    

  1. Identify how Systemic Work in the play therapy setting impacts the children and families we work with.
  2. Identify benefits and challenges to utilizing the client’s system in the support and advocacy of play therapy clients.
  3. Identify ethical implications of Systemic work with play therapy clients.

Understanding and Using the Self in Play Therapy- Joella Gerber (Beginning): A play therapist brings their whole self into the playroom. In this workshop, participants will explore their own personalities and beliefs. They will gain insight into the self and how it impacts their work in play therapy.

  1. Identify aspects of play therapists’ own personality
  2. Reflect on aspects of their personality and how they can be helpful or get in the way in play therapy
  3. Develop a self-reflection and self-care tool to continue reflection beyond the training to support play therapy practice

Unlocking Healing Through Play: A History of Play Therapy- Erica Wassenaar (Beginning):  This workshop is a foundational beginning for those new to play therapy or beginning to explore the application of play therapy. It’s also a great refresher for those who are more seasoned in the field or are looking to expand their historical knowledge of play therapy. In this informative class, you will learn how play therapy began and how it evolved.

  1. Articulate a definition of what play therapy is and explain it in a way which others can understand.
  2. Explain the history and development of play therapy.
  3. Identify the basic tenets of the seminal theories of play (Adlerian, child-centered, cognitive-behavioral, developmental, ecosystemic, filial, gestalt, Jungian, object- relations, and Theraplay)
  4. Explain what makes each seminal and history theory unique and significant. 
  5. Describe the strengths and limitations of each theory.
  6. Name a minimum of three historical figures that influenced the field of play therapy.

Building Bridges of Neurodiversity: Integrating Play Therapy and Occupational Therapy in the Play Room- Nolan Vitzthum (Beginning):  This workshop will guide play therapists to integrate the therapeutic powers of play and occupational therapy services when working with neurodiversity in the play therapy room. Mental health conditions discussed include ADHD, OCD, anxiety, trauma, attachment, ASD and ARFID.

  1. Increase awareness in identifying key themes of occupational therapy and how it can influence and compliment the work of play therapy.
  2. Increase understanding of how the Therapeutic Powers of Play integrated with Polyvagal Theory influence the play therapy process to create effective change for neurodivergent children. 
  3. Identify a minimum of three interventions to utilize in the play therapy room influenced by occupational therapy.

How to Care for Gender Diverse Children in the Age of Queer Erasure: A Guide for Play Therapists- Heather Sowada, PhD, LMFT & Remi Andrews, LMFT, RPT (Intermediate)

This session will cover the changes in Iowa’s laws regarding gender affirming care for gender diverse children, and how it impacts the play therapist in their work with these children . You will review the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-V TR and the APT Code of Ethics and how these documents interact with Iowa Law. Also covered will be the immediate impact on gender diverse children and their parents, and how we as clinicians can support these children.  We will also explore how queer erasure happens in children’s families, schools and communities – both through identification of the child and parents.  Lastly, participants in this workshop will learn three interventions to work with gender diverse children and their families in the playroom as we support them in honoring their identities as they face the legalization of discrimination.

  1. Participants will learn how current Iowa laws are impacting queer children and youth, and how this will manifest in the play therapist’s office.
  2. Participants will identify strategies to support queer children and parents within the current political and social environment in play therapy. 
  3. Participants will learn 3 play therapy interventions to work with queer children and youth in the playroom.