December 1, 2017

I just wanted to take a quick minute to say how thankful I am for everyone that participated in the 2017 Play Therapy Summit. I have now moved to Hawaii and since it might be cold where most of you are, I’m not going to talk about the amazing weather.  I will say that it has honestly been a difficult transition just getting organized and back to work.

But, THANKFULLY, I am starting to get it together.  And, I realized that there was a TON of information from the Summit and like me, you might have already forgotten most of it (or missed it altogether).

So, I was going back through the material and pulling out some memorable moments. And as I did, I remembered that some of the videos were not (technology wise) perfect. In fact, I had some difficulty during Dr. Mullen’s recording and that is why hers looks different than the rest (you can see us both throughout the whole interview instead of focusing on her while she’s talking).  It bugs me that she doesn’t get the spotlight like everyone else does.

But my mentor reminded me that to be accepting of my flaws and my imperfections (when it comes to technology and life) is what actually makes things MORE amazing. And, low and behold, that is the EXACT message that Dr. Mullen herself talks about in this presentation.

As a little reminder, she says:

Throughout her presentation, Dr. Mullen reminds us of the reasons that she and so many clinicians love play therapy.  She inspires us to remember the foundation of child-centered and humanistic theories in our work with children.  And she does that by continually asking one question:


The week of  any holiday can often be a really difficult time for some of our young clients.  I know in my own history – holiday weeks usually prompted the most crisis calls or other “meltdown” behaviors from kids that were supposed to be celebrating.

Parents are often surprised that these kids somehow sabotage their ability to attend a party at school or regresses in their behavior when a big group of family members get together.

In her class, Dr. Mullen reminds us about how preschoolers draw people with “a big head and legs” and she talks about how they view the world as being bigger than them.

So, if things are blowing up this week or your own children manage to embarrass you in front of the in-laws, don’t forget to consider that question posed by Dr. Mullen:


What is it like from their point of view? It may be a key to understanding their behavior this week and in the weeks to come.

In her course, Dr. Mullen tells us that sometimes we assume that we understand what it is like to be a child, but we’re not always really listening to what they are trying to tell us.  Sometimes, we fail.  Sometimes we mess up.  Or just get it wrong.

And, that children forgive us as long as we keep trying and are coming from a place of authentic compassion and understanding. 

In closing, she tells us that in that way-

EVERY CHILD BECOMES OUR TEACHER and it’ OK to make mistakes!


You can learn more from Dr. Mullen by taking her one hour course on The Culture of Childhood as featured in the 2017 Play Therapy Summit. (APT Approved Provider 12-331)

Or, you can contact her through her website at


**This course is designed for mental health professionals or those with a desire to learn more about helping children. It is not a substitute for therapy.  If your child is in need of mental health services, please find a qualified play therapist to help you through this process at**

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at

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