September 13, 2019

Attending a play therapy retreat in a paradise location (and possibly making it a tax-deductible business expense) sounds like a no-brainer, right?  But, many people hesitate before registering for a play therapy retreat experience for a variety of reasons.  

You might think that the number one reason would be COST.  Of course, it might feel unrealistically expensive to travel to somewhere exotic for a conference.  

But, in my experience, the biggest hang-up for people deciding whether or not to attend a play therapy retreat  is MINDSET.

There is an underlying mindset in many clinicians minds that this is “too luxurious” and “they don’t deserve it.”  Maybe when I’m more established, they think.   It’s going to be too expensive with the airfare, and the hotel and the days away from my practice.

Or, maybe they have fears.  Traveling a long way from home (either solo or with your family) presents a special set of challenges.  You may have a child with special needs and fear that the disruption to the routine is going to be too much.  You might be afraid to fly (or travel alone). What if something goes wrong? 

And then there are those that worry that this is just a big excuse for a grand vacation and there is no real learning taking place.  Sure, it sounds fabulous, but isn’t everyone just saying they are going to a conference and actually lounging at the pool. Is any real work getting done? 

Let me tell you why I think that a play therapy retreat is exactly worth the investment.

3 Reasons to Attend A Play Therapy Retreat


It takes courage to book a play therapy retreat.  Whether you are attending solo or bringing you family, you are basically sending a message to yourself, your family and your clients that you are worthy of spending a whole week focused only on you.  

In a world where “busy” is a sign of success, the idea that you are going to take a week away and NOT cram in as many continuing education credits as possible takes courage.  

People are more likely to do courageous things while they are on vacation.  So, once you get there, you might find yourself trying new foods, talking to new people, doing new things and just challenging your overall perspective.  The “not knowing” exactly how everything is going to go is part of the excitement, but also requires a lot of courage. 

In the 2019 Play Therapy Retreat on Oahu, Hawaii, participants did very courageous things outside of the training (like skydiving and ziplining), but they also did courageous things IN the training (like sharing personal vulnerability through expressive arts and sand tray activities). The smaller and more intimate venue allows participants to feel more courageous in their small group discussions.  

I believe the combination of time spent challenging yourself intellectually inside the training along with the time spent playing outside of the training gives you the best chance to integrate the feelings of courage and bravery  into your life. 


A play therapy retreat offers you the opportunity to form connections.  Most play therapy retreats are limited to a small group.  This allows you a chance to really connect with other participants, but it’s not so small that you feel like you are “on the spot” all the time.  

During small group activities, you have an opportunity to discuss material and process experientials with just 5-6 other people.  In larger group activities, you can compare your experiences and have a chance to ask questions that deepen your knowledge. 

These connections help participants brainstorm ways to bring the things they learned back into their practices at home.  Participants often find themselves having in-depth conversations about the material that was presented.  And because many participants bring their families, they find that they can also put what they learn into practice by spending time connecting with their loved ones (or with themselves) and experiencing what regulation and attachment could really feel like. 

The connection to the environment is another huge piece.  The benefits of being in a beautiful nature setting  (whether it be the oceans of Hawaii, the mountain-top in Park City Utah or in the bucket-list destination of  Kenya) can not be over-stated.  Hearing the sounds of the ocean, smelling the trees in the mountains, or scouting for giraffes from the hotel roof-top that is next to a National Park is often the thing that motivates you to register!


The integration of challenging intellectual information is combined with practical hands-on learning in this type of environment.  But, typically a retreat style conference means you get a deeper look at the information; more access to the presenters; and often material that isn’t available in other places. For example, Clair Mellenthin and Lisa Dion travel the world teaching play therapy, but they’ve only presented together in Hawaii.  And something really special happens when you get people like that together in one classroom.  The integrated experiences of these presenters and the participants comes from having a shared, incredibly courageous experience that I think everyone should get the chance to experience.

Your experience starts as soon as you register and continues as you start to meet your fellow participants and get to know your new friends over the next few months. 

Have you participated in a play therapy retreat?  What was your experience like? 

If you're looking for a place to get world-class play therapy learning along with a beautiful resort environment, then Park City, Utah is the place to be in 2023.  Find out all of the details here.  

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About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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