#278 - The Benefits of Play Therapy with Rebekah Springs, LMFT, RPT

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC October 18, 2023

#278 - The Benefits of Play Therapy with Rebekah Springs, LMFT, RPT

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The Benefits of Play Therapy with Rebekah Spring, LMFT, RPT 

Rebekah Springs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#T1450) practicing in Portland, OR. She specializes in working with neurodivergent children and parents. She is trained in Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) and in DIR/Floortime therapy, a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to working with children, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other sensory processing differences.

The work that Rebekah does with individuals, families, and parent-child relationships is influenced by interpersonal neurobiology and current research on attachment theory and mind-body integration. She loves supporting parents and families as they confront new diagnoses or work through new challenges that come with each stage of development.

She’s also an entrepreneur and mom of two– Rebekah owns The Real Work, a small child therapy collective, started a parent support community for parents of neurodivergent kids, and recently acquired a nature-based Pediatric Occupational Therapy Business, Thrive Outside, which she will be growing as well. In her free time she enjoys backpacking, trail running, and playing outdoors with her partner and kids.

Follow Rebekah on Instagram: Rebekah’s Instagram

Website: https://www.rebekahsprings.com/

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The Benefits Of Play Therapy With Rebekah Springs LMFT RPT

Rebekah, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Portland, Oregon, specializes in child-centered play therapy and DIR Floortime therapy for neurodivergent children and their parents. With a focus on the parent-child relationship, Rebekah incorporates the principles of interpersonal neurobiology and the latest research on attachment theory and mind-body integration into her work. 

Rebekah's unwavering commitment lies in supporting families as they navigate new diagnoses and triumph over challenges throughout their developmental journey. As a devoted entrepreneur, nurturing mother of two, and the esteemed proprietor of "The Real Work," a small child therapy collective, she channels her passion into creating a haven for children and their families.

What Is Play Therapy?  

Child-centered play therapy is a form of counseling that utilizes child-led play to help children express and process their emotions and experiences. It is based on the belief that children have an innate ability to heal themselves through play, as it is their natural form of communication and self-expression.

Play therapy sessions with a trained therapist give children a safe space to explore their inner world, build self-awareness, and develop coping strategies. The therapist acts as a facilitator, providing unconditional positive regard and support while allowing the child to lead the play.

Play Therapy, DIR Floortime, And Occupational Therapy

Play therapy, DIR Floortime, and occupational therapy are all versatile approaches that can benefit children of various ages and abilities. 

  • Play therapy focuses on emotional expression and processing.  
  • DIR Floortime (Developmental, Individual-differences, and Relationship-based model) is an interdisciplinary model that enhances self-regulation, curiosity, and social-emotional engagement. 
  • Occupational therapy focuses on improving physical, cognitive, and motor skills, with many therapists holding additional certification in play therapy or DIR Floortime to provide well-rounded support for all children.  

The Benefits Of Play Therapy

Play therapy enhances emotional regulation, boosts self-esteem, and fosters overall well-being in children. Additionally, it facilitates the development of problem-solving abilities and nurtures creativity. The benefits of play therapy are not limited to the child; parents are also included in the process.

Through observing their child's play and participating in parent-child sessions, parents can better understand their child's emotions and behaviors. They also learn practical skills to strengthen their relationship with their child and support them through difficult experiences. 

Furthermore, children who receive play therapy often show improved relationships with peers and family members, increased empathy and emotional intelligence, and a reduction in behavioral issues and anxiety. These benefits can extend beyond the therapy session and into the child's daily life. 

Involving Parents In Play Therapy

Parents play a crucial role in their child's emotional development and should actively participate in play therapy. This includes creating a safe and nurturing environment, understanding the power of play in emotional expression, and developing healthy communication patterns.

By involving parents in the play therapy process, Rebekah equips them with tools to continue supporting their child's emotional well-being outside of sessions. Additionally, it strengthens the parent-child relationship, promoting a secure attachment bond vital for a child's overall development. 

Facilitating Communication In Play Therapy 

Play therapy serves as a profound channel for children to communicate their emotions and experiences, transcending the limitations of verbal expression. This is especially significant for younger children who may not possess the linguistic capacity to articulate intricate feelings or encounters.

Furthermore, play therapy offers significant advantages for older children facing difficulties in verbal expression or dealing with trauma that hinders open discussions about their emotions. Through diverse play activities, children can develop self-confidence and acquire effective communication skills, crucial for enhancing their personal and social relationships.

Effective Strategies In Play Therapy 

Rebekah's play therapy approach encompasses a range of strategies to nurture children's emotional growth and facilitate their healing process. A crucial element of this approach involves keen observation and meticulous tracking, capturing the subtle nuances in their behavior and accomplishments.

Empowering children is crucial, fostering their sense of responsibility and recognizing their capabilities instead of assuming they require excessive assistance. Rebekah motivates children with empowering phrases like "You can handle this" or "I have faith in your ability to figure it out." 

Self-reflection is a crucial aspect that fosters the development of healthy coping mechanisms by examining our emotions and thoughts. Encouraging children to express their feelings through art, journaling, or storytelling is a powerful way to nurture their emotional well-being.

Signs Your Child Could Benefit From Play Therapy

Parents often seek Rebekah's guidance when choosing between occupational therapy and play therapy. However, distinguishing between these two approaches is beneficial to address mental health concerns better.

It is crucial to consider whether your child's anxiety is a persistent and significant issue or simply an occasional worry. Suppose their anxiety is severe to the extent that they feel afraid to leave home, struggle with getting out of bed, and experience specific fears resembling phobias.

It is essential to consistently ask ourselves meaningful questions to delve deeper, such as:

  • "Why is my child afraid to leave the house? 
  • Are they struggling with anxiety, or are other underlying factors at play?" 
  • Is there a family history of anxiety or mood disorders?
  • Do they feel overwhelmed by their surroundings
  • Was there a traumatic event that triggered this?

Moreover, play therapists often prioritize assisting in reprocessing traumatic experiences, which is especially relevant when a child has gone through a distressing event. It is crucial to recognize that the intensity of traumatic experiences can vary, and even those that may not be evident to parents can still have a lasting impact on a child, considering their distinct individual traits.

Choosing A Play Therapist Or Licensed Psychologist

The specific approach taken by a licensed child psychologist determines the scope of their services. Typically, they would conduct assessments rather than engage in comprehensive evaluations such as neuropsychological assessments. 

Alternatively, psychologists may choose to evaluate the child through play therapy, depending on the configuration of their office. Certain psychologists specialize in this approach, which entails a dedicated room tailored to meet the child's unique requirements.

In contrast, a play therapist utilizes a designated room furnished with specialized materials to conduct personalized sessions weekly, with each session spanning 45 minutes. This approach cultivates a consistent and relationship-centered model, distinguishing it from psychologists who may interact less frequently with the child. 

When To Transition From Play Therapy

There are several indicators that suggest a child is ready to progress beyond play therapy. Two key indicators stand out: a sense of mastery and a feeling of competence within the therapeutic relationship.

As children develop self-assurance in managing their emotions and learn effective coping strategies, they naturally transition from play therapy. However, it is vital to maintain open and consistent communication with the child's therapist to determine the optimal timing for this transition.

The therapist may also collaborate with parents and other professionals engaged in the child's care to make a well-informed decision. Ultimately, the objective is to ensure the child's emotional well-being and help them reach their maximum potential.

Finding A Play Therapist For Your Child

The Association for Play Therapy serves as the certification and registration board, offering a comprehensive directory of qualified professionals. It is crucial to conduct thorough research on the therapist's experience and qualifications, ensuring they possess the necessary training and supervision in play therapy techniques.

Furthermore, it may be beneficial to schedule an initial meeting with the therapist to discuss their approach and address any concerns or inquiries you may have. Doing so lets you make an informed decision and find the right therapist for your child's needs.

When searching for a play therapist, it is crucial to consider the availability of insurance coverage and the potential out-of-pocket expenses. Although the specifics may differ from state to state, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is generally advisable.

What Parents Should Know About Play Therapy

As parents, we aim to offer the utmost for our children and genuinely comprehend their distinct individuality. When parents possess greater confidence, they become better equipped to support and nurture their children in every conceivable manner wholeheartedly.

Parent-child relationships often encounter challenges rooted in feelings of powerlessness and anxiety. As parents, our minds tend to fixate on worst-case scenarios, persistently fretting over our children's future, even into adulthood.

However, this worry frequently hampers parent's capacity to embrace the present moment. Play therapy, however, empowers parents and children alike, fostering open communication and self-awareness within a secure and supportive setting.

Final Advice From Rebekah

When parents feel overwhelmed, confused, or anxious about their child, Rebekah wants to remind you that seeking support from your community is the first step towards finding comfort. Whether it's a therapist or another professional, connecting with someone who understands your experiences can provide invaluable assistance and guidance.

Surround yourself with individuals who can genuinely empathize and connect with your experiences. With the right support and guidance, parents can confidently navigate the challenges of parenthood and foster a profound bond with their children through the transformative potential of play therapy.






While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science & art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views & opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties & what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links & make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews & comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair & balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.

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