NaBlue Ridge Mountains Nature in Play Therapy Training Event

Join us November 19-22, 2020

for a 3 day play therapy training experience in a beautiful mountain retreat setting!

Five play therapy trainers will gather with 45 therapists in the captivating Blue Ridge mountains of Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia for 20 hours of play therapy training contact hours (APT Approved Provider 12-321).  

Join us to learn how to integrate and implement nature-based play therapy interventions rooted in a variety of theoretical orientations supporting the use of play as an effective agent of change, growth and healing.

The interventions introduced will provide methods to bring nature into play therapy practice with children, adolescents and families both in the playroom as well as bridging prescriptive healing interventions outside of sessions to promote family bonding.

Practitioners are increasingly becoming aware of the

therapeutic healing and restorative power of nature.

There is an established and growing body of research evidence showing support for the theory that children who have opportunities to connect with nature gain the following benefits:

  • reduction of stress
  • increased focus and mental clarity
  • enhanced creativity and problem-solving
  • improved self-discipline
  • exhibit more cooperativeness
  • decreased depression and behavior problems. 

Despite these research findings, paradoxically, children and families are more out-of-touch with nature than ever before. Land restrictions, fear of litigation, and safety concerns have all made their contribution to this ever increasing disconnect between the children, families and the natural world. Researchers are finding evidence that some of the behavioral disorders today are, in part, a consequence of this disconnect.

According to author and researcher Richard Louv, children are suffering something he refers to as Nature Deficit Disorder which speaks to the detrimental effects that can occur when children have decreased access to the world of nature. (images by Rachel Altvater)

Grounded in the therapeutic powers of play, this intensive training will introduce practitioners to the utilization of nature’s multi-sensory items to intervene in varied childhood diagnoses and problem areas. Participants will learn how known play therapy interventions such as therapeutic storytelling, sand tray play therapy, Gestalt play therapy and many others can utilize sand, natural clay, gems and minerals, stones, feathers, shells, mandalas, nature sounds and other earth-based components within play therapy sessions. We will address ways to bring elements of nature into the totality of the play therapy process with review of theory and practical interventions for all stages of therapy from initial rapport building through connecting and joining interventions to the termination and closing process.

"Nature is a tool . . .

to help children experience not only the wider world, but themselves.”  – Stephen Moss

Training methods will include PowerPoint presentation, discussion and hands-on experiential learning to provide the theoretical foundations of eco-psychology as related to the play therapy literature and the latest cutting-edge nature-based research in play therapy.

Participants will have the opportunity to go out in nature during the presentation for experiential play therapy activities.

This training provides 20 contact play therapy training hours (APT Provider 12-321).

Our Training Sessions

Session 1: Connecting & Joining Family & Group Play Therapy Interventions

Presented by all trainers collaboratively

Duration: 2 hours

Description: In play therapy the very first encounter with a child client and the family in session is the essential first step of establishing therapeutic rapport. Playful ice-breaker Family and Group Play Therapy interventions are useful for initial connection and observational assessment for treatment planning purposes. This training session, based in research-based theory will introduce the benefits of play-based ice-breaker activities in Family and Group Play Therapy through experiential learning to facilitate communication, social connections.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain the importance of rapport establishment in play therapy.
  2. Describe 3 benefits of connecting and joining interventions in family and/or group play therapy.
  3. Demonstrate 5 connecting and joining interventions in family and/or group play therapy.
  4. Develop 3 ways to use play as an agent of change to facilitate communication and enhance social relationships.
Session 2: Utilizing the Metaphorical Healing Elements of Mother Earth in Play Therapy

Presented by Janet Courtney, PhD., RPT-S

Duration: 3 Hours


In this engaging and experiential workshop based in the peer-reviewed literature that studies the therapeutic use of involving nature in therapy, participants will learn multiple play-based methods with the metaphorical elements of natural objects—shells, feathers, sand, clay, gemstones and stones (think metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous)—can be therapeutically utilized within play therapy sessions in the play room and outdoors with children and families. With attention to multi-cultural sensitivity, we will discuss how nature crosses cultural barriers, enhancing social connections. Factors related to multi-cultural diversity will be addressed through the presentation of case vignette examples. Several nature-based interventions will be presented that you can immediately put into practice including a powerful storytelling healing intervention related to the therapeutic powers of  play through “indirect teaching” called: “I KNOW MY YES’s and NO’s!” that helps to empower children to better clarify their decision making, boundary setting, and choices in life and can be applicable to children experiencing a wide range of diagnoses or problem areas. The activity is completed by expanding the metaphor to wrap a protective “blanket” to contain the stones.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify three ways in which nature-based interventions can be therapeutically utilized within play therapy sessions with children, adolescents and families.
  2. State one way that each of the following elements of nature (gemstones, feathers, shells, clay, sand) can be therapeutically integrated into play therapy sessions.
  3. Demonstrate how to implement at least three different nature-based interventions with clients during play therapy sessions.
  4. Explain three different therapeutic powers of play that the intervention of “I KNOW MY YES’s and NO’s” meets.
Session 3: NaturePlay: The Dynamic Duo of Nature and Play Therapy

Presented by Jamie Lynn Langley, LCSW, RPT-S

Duration: 3 hours


There is a mounting body of evidence regarding the therapeutic benefits of nature.  The ecotherapy movement is growing with more practitioners accessing nature as part of treatment interventions. Play therapists have the ability to incorporate nature-based expressive arts and play therapy activities to combine the therapeutic healing benefits of nature and play for both children and families. This session will first review the research literature regarding the mental health benefits of nature as a foundation for this retreat experience. Then nature-based interventions that can be incorporated by the play therapist for both inside the playroom as well as outside in nature will be explored. Participants will also have the opportunity during the presentation to be in nature for an experiential activity to further the learning process with playful intentionality.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify at least three healing benefits of nature from the research presented as well as why these are important considerations for play therapists.
  2. Explain the concepts of “Nature Deficit Disorder” and “Vitamin N” and characterize three ways incorporating nature within play therapy interventions can address these concerns.
  3. Participate in a nature-based experiential activity and articulate how this can be included as part of play therapy sessions with children and/or families.
  4. Formulate at least two additional nature-based expressive arts or play therapy activities that can be conducted either inside or outside as ways to incorporate nature into play therapy.
  5. Explore at least two ways nature-based activities can improve self-regulation and creative problem-solving as part of increasing personal strengths in play therapy. 
Session 4: Incorporating Nature Sounds in Play Therapy

Presented by Rose LaPiere, LPC, RPT-S, ACS

Duration: 2 hours


By allowing sound to consciously be a part of our connecting experiences we experience connection and communication. We are constantly taking in information through our senses and this allows us to discern if something is safe or dangerous. In accordance with the literature, this training will provide instruction on how learning to focus and consciously pay attention to sound helps to strengthen neural networks allowing for greater awareness to one’s physical, emotional and mental experiences.  Musical sounds made by nature and sounds made from natural materials allows for the evoking and identification of emotions expanding the child’s mind and body connection. Learning how to bring in cues of safety through nature sounds can help enhance emotion regulation for clients. According to Violet Oaklander (2001) “Providing varied experiences for children is an essential component of the therapeutic process. These experiences may be with aspects of themselves that are blocked, such as one or more of their sensory modalities. Or they might be experiences that experiment with parts of the self that have been kept dormant. All of these experiences serve to strengthen children’s self, promote good contact functioning, culminating in healing emotional expression, and, in general, facilitate new, more satisfying ways of being in the world. Often, after such therapeutic experiences, the unacceptable, worrisome behaviors drop away.”  This training session provides a foundation of child centered play therapy as well as incorporating Gestalt theory in working with children and families. Employing the therapeutic powers of play with incorporation of nature sounds in play therapy include a process of exploring self-expression, skill-building, self-regulation, stress management and therapeutic relationship.Specific Gestalt-based methods will be introduced and discussed illustrating how to incorporate nature sounds in play therapy. Therapist will be able to utilize these interventions immediately in their practice. Lecture, discussion, situational cases and experiential exercises will be utilized.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe how using nature sounds in play therapy will benefit a child.
  2. List 10 nature-based sounds and create a nature sound map that that outlines nervous system states of arousal.
  3. Describe and execute at least five nature sound-based play therapy techniques.
  4. Identify 3 therapeutic powers of play when incorporating nature sounds in play therapy.  
Session 5: Play Therapy in Nature with Sandtray & Storytelling

Presented by Rosalind Heiko, PhD, RPT-S, ISST

Duration: 3 hours


Every successful journey story incorporates travel into the heart of the Great Forest-the archetypal source of both the challenges and resources in the psyche of every client and therapist. Becoming attuned to the outer world in nature, as well as the inner perception of the self, allows us to mindfully bring our inner and outer experience into a sense of experienced harmony within the play room. This training session draws from Jungian theory and is based in the literature addressing neurobiology and expressive play. This workshop will invite play therapists to participate in the sheltered container of nature play through various forms of storytelling to better understand the pathways our play therapy clients travel, as well as provide opportunities for self-reflection. We will learn play therapy techniques by creating playful nature sandtrays from gathered materials, coming to understand the symbolism of found objects such as feathers, stones, crystals, leaves, plants and bones; listen to a story that features deep connection to our rootedness in the natural world; participate in discussion about pertinent play therapy case examples; and explore the quiet in nature outside the classroom setting, as well as inside ourselves. The workshop will provide opportunities for experiential play, case vignettes, storytelling and discussion.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify three (3) aspects of nature play using found objects for use with clients in practice.
  2. Recognize three (3) aspects of the differences between play therapy experiences in nature, as opposed to those activities in a therapeutic playroom setting.
  3. Describe at least two (2) theoretical approaches to the utilization of sand in play therapy.
  4. Describe how the therapeutic use of storytelling can be used in clinical practice to enhance relationship and attunement goals.
  5. Apply three (3) therapeutic powers of play therapy to the models of using sandplay and sandtray when working on clients’ self-expression, role of unconscious processes and in enhancing the relationship between therapist and client. 
Session 6: Utilizing Nature in Play Therapy to Over Come Trauma: Touching Clay A Gestalt Play Therapy Encounter and Nature Mandalas for Mindfulness

Presented by Janet Courtney, Ph.D., RPT-S and Jamie Lynn Langley, LCSW, RPT-S 

Duration: 3 hours


Children who have been traumatized often do not have the skills to put words to their thoughts and feelings. Trauma lives deep within their bodies, unable to be processed, leaving them anxious, depressed, withdrawn or even aggressive. In the first half of this experiential workshop, participants will learn how to utilize the healing power of clay to create a Gestalt Play Therapy encounter to help process trauma within a play therapy session. A brief case study, “Penguin Man Speaks” will be presented to ground theory into practice.  In the second half, participants will both explore and experience the use of nature mandalas as a play therapy intervention for mindfulness as part of trauma treatment to self-regulate, enhance creativity and reduce traumatic symptoms.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Demonstrate two ways how to implement clay in play therapy practice through hands-on interactive experiences to promote sense of identity and self-worth in clients.
  2. Characterize three ways how nature play therapy can reframe trauma experiences, increase self-regulation and connect to a mind-body awareness through both a Gestalt Play Therapy encounter and a mindfulness therapeutic intervention within play therapy. 
  3. Articulate a minimum of three ways to assist clients in developing inner resilience, courage, creativity and tenacity to reduce trauma symptoms within play therapy sessions.
  4. Identify at least three healing benefits of mindfulness using nature-based play therapy interventions as part of trauma treatment.
  5. Explore at least two ways the therapeutic powers of play are enhanced by incorporating nature-based activities into play therapy. 
Session 7: Integrating Somatic and Sensory Techniques in Play therapy

Presented by Rose LaPiere, LPC, RPT-S, ACS & Lynn Louise Wonders, LPC, RPT-S, CPCS

Duration: 2 hours


We can teach children in play therapy to become aware of and connect to the sensations in their mind and body so they can see and understand themselves in the moment.  Participants will learn somatic and sensory strategies through the lens of play therapy, neuroscience, mindfulness and attachment theories.  The foundation of this course is in child centered play therapy.  The somatic and sensory based play therapy interventions will include body based, mindfulness and sensory techniques.  Interventions that are directly related to states of the nervous system hypo-arousal and hyperarousal states will be discussed. Teaching regulation to children and caregivers with simple creative interventions that can be utilized in and out of the session.  Cultivating sensory and somatic awareness are important tools to help regulate the body and emotions and build resiliency.  Therapeutic powers of play when incorporating somatic and sensory techniques in play therapy includes discussion of self-expression, direct teaching, indirect teaching, self-regulation, positive emotions, stress management and therapeutic relationship.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the importance of cultivating interoception in play therapy
  2. Demonstrate 5 ways to cultivate somatic awareness in play therapy
  3. Demonstrate 5 ways to cultivate sensory awareness in play therapy
  4. Identify 3 therapeutic powers of play for somatic and sensory techniques.
Session 8: Closure & Termination Techniques for Group Play Therapy

Presented by All Trainers

Duration: 2 hours


When providing closed play therapy groups, the process of closure and completion is a fundamental and essential part of the therapeutic experience. This training session will review the termination process specific to play therapy groups with introduction to 5 group closure activities. 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain the clinical significance of the termination process specific to group play therapy
  2. Name 3 elements appropriate closure in group play therapy.
  3. List 5 play-based group play therapy closure intervention activities. 
  4. Develop 3 ways to use play as an agent of change to facilitate communication and enhance social relationships

Our Trainers

Janet Courtney, PhD, RPT-S

Dr. Courtney is Founder of FirstPlay Therapy® [an Infant Mental Health & Developmental Play Therapy model] and Editor of FirstPlay® Café: An e-magazine for parents (womb to six Years). She is a Registered Play Therapy-Supervisor, TEDx Speaker and presently Chair of the Association for Play Therapy Ethics and Practice Committee and past President of the Florida Association for Play Therapy.

Dr. Courtney is author and co-editor of Touch in Child Counseling and Play Therapy: An Ethical and Clinical Guide. And her research into practitioner experiences of training in touch and Developmental Play Therapy is published in the American Journal of Art Therapy and the International Journal of Play Therapy. She has a chapter in Environmental Expressive Therapies (2017), titled: “The Art of Utilizing the Metaphorical Elements of Nature as ‘Co-Therapist’ in Ecopsychology Play Therapy.” She is also published in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture. She offers a certification in FirstPlay Therapy® (including FirstPlay® Infant Massage Storytelling) and provides training to professionals in the Ethical and Clinical Competencies of Touch, FirstPlay® Therapy, Expressive Therapies, Family Play Therapy, and Ecopsychology Play Therapy.

Dr. Courtney has been invited to speak nationally and internationally including the Cayman Islands, England, Ireland, Morocco, Russia and the Ukraine. She is a provider through the Florida state boards of Mental Health and Massage Therapy, and an approved provider through the Association for Play Therapy. She specializes in Infant Mental Health and Infant Play Therapy, Attachment, and Trauma related issues. Dr. Courtney’s Kinesthetic Storytelling® can be found in her children’s book, The Magic Rainbow. Visit: &

Rosalind Heiko, PhD, RPT-S, ISST

Dr. Roz  is a is a licensed Psychologist and certified School Psychologist. She is a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor with APT and a certified Sandplay teacher with ISST who trains therapists internationally and nationally. Her new book, A Therapist’s Guide to Mapping the Girl Heroine’s Journey in Sandplay, was just published with Rowman & Littlefield (July 2018). Her chapter “Tempered in the fire: Self-care & mindfulness in preventing clinical burn-out” is published in Integrative family play therapy: A new paradigm by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers (2015). She has also authored a number of articles for the Journal of Sandplay Therapy.

Dr. Heiko is founder of NC Play Therapy & Sandplay Training and a past Board of Trustees Member of the Sandplay Therapists of America. She is the Director of Pediatric & Family Psychology, P.A., in Cary, NC, specializing in working with trauma with children, adolescents and families professionally since 1983. Dr. Roz is an Approved Teaching Consultant in Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and is Level II certified in EMDR.  She believes wholeheartedly in the power of laughter and the delight that play therapy brings to her clients and trainees. You can reach her through her website:

Jamie Lynn Langley, LCSW, RPT-S

Ms. Langley, LCSW, RPT-S is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor.  Jamie has a private practice in Smyrna, TN, outside of Nashville, where she sees children and adolescents from the ages of 3 – 19 and their families. Ms. Langley teaches adjunct for Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and Lipscomb University.  Prior to private practice she worked with a community mental health center for over 27 years, primarily providing play therapy with traumatized, abused and abandoned children.  As one of the original co-founders of the Tennessee Association for Play Therapy (TNAPT) and president since its founding, she has been dedicated to making play therapy training more available in local areas. 

She provides foundational play therapy and sand tray training both from her office and on the road as requested. Ms. Langley has also presented on play therapy regionally and nationally and was most recently invited to present to the Wroxton International Play Therapy Study Group in Oxfordshire, England in June.  In addition to play therapy, she has also been an advocate for combining childhood and nature experiences for children and their families.  As a former Cub Scout leader for 15 years, and with both sons as Eagle Scouts, they have together found that some of their most cherished family time was that spent in the outdoors with camping and hiking experiences.  They increasingly refer to times needed for the “Nature Fix” to both lower stress and improve connections.  Becoming concerned over the growing lack of nature experiences for children, Ms. Langley has been incorporating nature in her play therapy over the past several years, calling it “NaturePlay Therapy.”  She is also involved with the Children and Nature Network which was started by Richard Louv in 2006. She serves on the Advisory Board representing children and mental health for the Healthy Parks Healthy Person program through the Tennessee State Parks. Learn more at

Rose LaPiere, LPC, RPT-S, ACS

Ms. LaPiere, LPC, RPT-S, ACS has been in private practice in Sea Girt, NJ for 14 years working with children, adolescents and families.  She is a certified School Psychologist and worked as a school psychologist on the child study teams as well as a school counselor for 7 years.  Ms. LaPiere is a foundational Theraplay practitioner.  She has obtained many years of training in SandTray and SandPlay therapies and is currently working toward certification in EMDR and toward certification as a Synergetic Play Therapist. In private practice she works with children beginning ages 3 to 18 and also works with adults. 

Ms. LaPiere provides supervision for therapists, consultation with schools and she provides training workshops for parents, teachers, and school counselors most often related to anxiety, and ADHD.  In her school career as school psychologist she worked in variety of settings including preschool, elementary, middle school and high school in small to large school districts.  Ms. LaPiere has worked in private schools, community mental health agency, and intensive out-patient program.  She is currently the president-elect for the NJ Association of Creative Counselors which is a branch of the NJ Counseling Association. Learn more about her work at

Lynn Louise Wonders, LPC, RPT-S, CPCS

Ms. Wonders, LPC, RPT-S, CPCS is a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor, licensed and certified in the state of Georgia to provide professional counseling and supervision services. She is the Director of Wonders Counseling Services, LLC based in metro Atlanta, Georgia, providing consultation and mentoring services for therapists throughout the United States, in Israel, Ireland, South Korea and Australia. Ms. Wonders is the founder of the Preschool Emotion Education Program (PEEP) implemented in preschool settings since 2003 to provide young children, teachers and parents with experiential education and support to facilitate mindfulness and emotional intelligence. She is the founder of Parenting with Purpose and Vision Seminar Series, and a trained facilitator of Dr. John Gottman’s parenting program Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.

Ms. Wonders is an Association for Play Therapy Approved Provider and has been providing play therapy training and continuing education for therapists in person and online since 2011. She is the Early Childhood Specialist and National Spokesperson for Primrose Schools having authored hundreds of articles on early childhood development and parenting.  She he has been a guest instructor for the psychology department at Berry College in Rome, Georgia and for the mental health departments at Grady Hospital, Peachford Hospital and Mercy Care in Atlanta. Ms. Wonders is also the Director of Wonders Wellness Institute for Women where she offers self-care retreats and provides consultation and education for women on the subject of sustaining a healthy holistic lifestyle with over 20 years of experience teaching meditation, mindfulness and gentle forms of yoga and Tai Chi & Chi Kung. Ms. Wonders has led self-care retreats for women in the North Georgia mountains since 2011. You can learn more about her services at and

Our Schedule

Thursday November 14

3:00 – 4:00 Arrival and Registration

4:30 – 5:30 Welcome, Orientation and Introductions

6:00 – 7:00 Dinner

7:30 – 9:30 Session 1: Connecting & Joining Family & Group Play Therapy Interventions (2 hours)

9:30 – 10:30 Fireside Gathering

Friday November 15

7:00 – 8:00 Morning Mindfulness Meditation & Self Care

8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast

9:30 – 12:30 Session 2: Utilizing the Metaphorical Healing Elements of Mother Earth in Play Therapy (3 hours)

12:30 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00- 4:00 Session 3: NaturePlay: The Dynamic Duo of Nature and Play Therapy (3 hours)

4:00 – 6:00 Free time

6:00 – 7:00 Dinner

7:30 – 9:30 Session 4: Incorporating Nature Sounds in Play Therapy (2 hours)

9:30 – 10:30 Fireside Gathering

Saturday November 16

7:00 – 8:00 Morning Mindfulness Meditation & Self Care

8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast

9:30 – 12:30 Session 5: Play Therapy with Sandtray & Storytelling (3 hours) 

2:30 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 4:00 Session 6: Utilizing Nature in Play Therapy to Over Come Trauma: Touching Clay A Gestalt Play Therapy Encounter and Nature Mandalas for Mindfulness (3 hours)

4:00 – 6:00 Free time

6:00 – 7:00 Dinner

7:30 – 9:30 Session 7: Integrating Somatic and Sensory Techniques in Play therapy (2 hours)

9:30 – 10:30 Fireside Gathering

Sunday November 17

7:00 – 8:00 Morning Mindfulness & Self Care Class

8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast

9:30 – 11:30 Session 8: Closure & Termination Techniques for Group Play Therapy (2 hours)

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Conference End – Departures


(APT Approved Provider 12-321)

All plans include:

  • 3 Night Stay in the Beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains at Elohee Retreat Center
  • 12  Delicious, Healthy Meals
  • 24 Hour Tea Services
  • 3 Nights Luxury Lodging
  • Nightly Outdoor Fire Gathering (weather permitting)
  • Use of Entire Mountain Top Resort Facilities 
  • 8 Information-packed Sessions: 20 hours of Play Therapy Training ($450)
  • Supplemental Materials ($50)

We have three room arrangements to suit your budget and comfort level, and installment plans are available.

Space is limited, so register today!

*Cancellation Policy: Registration made before August 1, 2019 may be cancelled prior to August 1, 2019 and reimbursed minus a $175 administrative fee. All balances must be paid in full by or before August 1, 2019 and after August 1, 2019 no fees paid will be refunded due to the financial obligation we have to the retreat center.

Double Occupancy, Shared Bath, Meals, Tuition & Fees


Single Room / Twin, Shared Bath, Meals, Tuition & Fees


Single Room / King, Private Bath, Meals, Tuition & Fees