Play Based Healing - Establishing Safe Connections

October 29th 2021

Join Margaret Blaustein, Lou Bergholz, and Dafna Lender for a magical day of learning, collaboration, and play

Thank you for joining us! This event is closed for registration. 

Date: October 29, 2021 @ 9:30 am – 2:30 pm ET  – Live | Virtual Event

Join Margaret Blaustein, Lou Bergholz, and Dafna Lender for a magical day of learning, collaboration, and play! Children come to us from different backgrounds and environments, but they all need to feel safe in order to develop and connect to others. Supporting the exploration of positive self and identity is critical to the healthy development of children. 

Child and youth-serving programs are often so focused on scheduling activities that we lose sight of the goal. When we step back and see our programming through the lens of playful design, we start to notice and embrace healing moments that are already there. We invite you to join us as we guide you to reimagine your program design so that it establishes safety and facilitates connection.


Sessions & Learning Objectives

Session 1: Dafna Lender


The quickest and most powerful way to get to transformative moments with children is through play— meaning interactive, face-to-face, reciprocal, cooperative interactions that rely on movement, rhythm, touch, a prosodic voice, and eye contact. Children learn to regulate, connect and share joy with others through play. The more the child learns that it’s pleasurable and safe to be completely caught up in a moment of shared joy or attention with another person, the deeper sense of connection. That is why facilitating safe, engaging play between children is so important for their overall development.

Learning Objectives:

1. Describe the role of play in developing a sense of connection between children

2. Describe the role of play in developing the capacity for regulation in children

Session 2: Lou Bergholz


Child and youth-serving programs are built around their schedules. This organized approach creates much needed structure and predictability for young people affected by trauma.  It helps create order out of chaos.  However, sometimes the minute-by-minute scheduling becomes a means for control instead of an avenue for development. It turns joyful and therapeutic play into just a series of activities and tasks to complete. And it can actually restrict a youth worker and child from finding the critical moments of healing that the program was originally built for. In this segment, we’ll explore principles and techniques that underpin playful design: offering a refreshing lens on how to reimagine your schedule and overall program design to help facilitate connection, nurture meaningful choices, and open up the spaces in your program to help each participant (and staff!) gain more access to moments of healing.

Learning Objectives:

1. Identify the healing opportunities and limitations present in typical youth program design

2. Identify the therapeutic core of the major activities in their youth program

3. Describe the importance for staff to find their joy and playful self in the program activities

Session 3: Margaret Blaustein


Children and adolescent’s sense of self and ability to connect to others are frequently affected by exposure to stress and adversity. They are also core predictors of positive outcome: they may be thought of as critical resilience facilitators – those capacities which help a child to navigate their world. Many child -serving programs, both clinical and community-based, offer rich forums for engaging and supporting youth in developing a positive sense of self and the ability to safely connect to others through facilitating experiences of strength, mastery, and connected relationships. In this segment, we will briefly outline core developmental capacities which may be impacted by trauma and their role in youth outcomes; and will explore a range of ways to build attuned, respectful, playful engagement in order to facilitate positive youth development.

Learning Objectives:

1. Participants will be able to identify at least two developmental capacities which are impacted by childhood trauma and adversity

2. Participants will be able to describe at least one way their own role / work may play a part in supporting youth sense of self

3. Participants will be able to describe at least one way their own role / work may play a part in supporting youth connection to others

Meet the speakers

Margaret Blaustein

Margaret Blaustein is a practicing clinical psychologist whose career has focused on the understanding and treatment of complex childhood trauma and its sequelae. With an emphasis on the importance of understanding the child-, the family-, and the provider-in-context, her study has focused on identification and translation of key principles of intervention across treatment settings, building from the foundational theories of childhood development, attachment, and traumatic stress. With Kristine Kinniburgh, Dr. Blaustein is co-developer of the Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC) treatment framework (Kinniburgh & Blaustein, 2005), and co-author of the text, Treating Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents: Fostering Resilience through Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competence (Blaustein & Kinniburgh, 2010 / 2018). She has provided extensive training and consultation to providers within the US and abroad. Dr. Blaustein is currently Director of the Center for Trauma Training in Needham, MA, and is past Division Director for Trauma Training and Education at The Trauma Center at JRI. She is actively involved in local, regional, and national collaborative groups dedicated to the empathic, respectful, and effective provision of services to this population.

Dafna Lender

Dafna Lender is a child and family therapist with over 20 years of experience. She is a certified trainer, supervisor, and consultant in Theraplay® and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, and coauthor of Theraplay: The Practitioner’s Guide. Dafna has successfully treated children and their parents with a variety of backgrounds, including children raised in orphanages, with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, exposed to domestic violence and community violence and children of parents with chronic mental illness and attachment wounds. Dafna provides trainings and consultations for psychologists and psychotherapists around the world.

Lou Bergholz

Lou Bergholz is entering his 20th year of work with Edgework and has over two decades of experience working with teams, organizations and communities on their most pressing human capital and human development issues. Lou oversees Edgework’s unique Knowledge Lab, an internal research and learning system that fuels all of Edgework’s content creation and program design.  Lou also designs interventions and facilitates trainings for Edgework. Lou has worked on four continents with organizations such as CARE International, UNICEF, Grassroot Soccer, Mercy Corps, Kids Play International, the SeriousFun Network, Play Rugby USA, Legacy Youth Tennis, Boston After School and Beyond, Newtown Parks and Recreation Department, Street Soccer USA, NICA, and Up2Us Sports.