Relationship-based intervention including play therapy techniques for Autism

Program Goals

Children on the autism spectrum struggle with communication and connection to the outside world. This workshop will discuss ways to help parents and caretakers establish and enhance a warm, structured, playful, and connected relationship with their children. Drawing on relationship-focused, developmental, and play therapy approaches, this two-day workshop will present an integrated approach designed to support and enhance parent-child dyadic interactions.

Based on a synthesis of research identifying the core deficits of autism underlying outward behaviors, this workshop will explore how these challenges disrupt the guided participation relationship between parent and child, reducing opportunities for playful engagement and learning.Play therapy techniques and other relationship-based strategies for moving families beyond crisis toward an improved quality of life will be emphasized.A variety of real-world strategies and play therapy approaches will be discussed, demonstrated, and practiced to enhance communication and connection between parents and children.

After attending this program play therapy participants will be able to:

  • Distinguish between static and dynamic intelligence and discuss the need to facilitate flexible thinking rather than rote skills alone
  • Define several core deficits distinguishing individuals with autism from those with othersocial or behavioral challenges
  • Describe how these core deficits disrupt the guided participation relationship between parent and child resulting in the loss of emotional connection, social engagement, and opportunities for learning
  • Describe the impact that autism spectrum disorders have on generic play patterns and themes as well as playful engagement with others
  • Review play therapy and other relationship-based strategies for assessing the quality of parent-child interactions
  • Discuss play therapy and other relationship-based strategies for moving parents out of crisis toward a more meaningful, engaged, and reciprocal relationship with their child
  • Describe, demonstrate, and practice play therapy based techniques and real-world approaches for increasing experience-sharing communication, co-regulation, social reciprocity, mindful engagement, and flexible thinking
  • List two play therapy activities that can be used with parent-child dyads
  • List two play therapy resources that might enhance further understanding of how play therapy can promote enhanced parent-child relationships and overall functioning

Program Schedule

The schedule will consist of didactic presentations, experiential work, presentation of clinical examples, and practice practical application of strategies.

Day 1
9:00 – 9:15 am Introduction and overview of training goals Discussion and assessment of participants’ needs for the training
9:15 – 10:30 am
  • Defining autism
  • Dynamic and static intelligence
  • Core deficits of ASD (Dynamic analysis, episodic memory, co-regulation, flexible thinking, experience sharing communication)
  • DSM-5 changes in diagnosis of ASD
10:30 – 10:45 am Break
10:45 – 12:00 pm Disruption of the guided participation relationship in ASD
12:00 – 1:00 LUNCH
1:00 – 1:45 pm Changing the communication environment – real-world, play therapy, and relationship-based strategies
1:45 – 2:30 pm Changing the communication environment – video examples and guided practice
2:30 – 2:45 pm Break
2:45 – 3:15 pm Moving families out of crisis – beginning steps for guiding parents
3:15 – 4:30 pm Helping families prioritize intervention needs using a relationship-based approach
Day 2
9:00 – 9:15 am Continued discussion and evaluation of participants’ training needs
9:15 – 10:00 am A brief overview and discussion of popular intervention programs for ASD Discussion of play in ASD and current play therapy approaches
10:00 – 10:30 am Review of core deficits and additional video examples
10:30 – 10:45 am Break
10:45 – 11:30 am Video analysis of parent-child assessment sessions utilizing play therapy and play-based techniques
11:30 – 12:00 pm Strategies for strengthening the guided participation relationship based on assessment analysis
12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 – 2:30 pm Planning and facilitating interactions using play therapy and real-world techniques – beginning steps
2:30 – 2:45 pm Break
2:45 – 3:45 pm Planning and facilitating interactions using play therapy and real-world techniques – practice and feedback
3:45 – 4:30 pm Sharing of play therapy and other relationship-based resources, ASD resources, questions, evaluations, and closing

General Course Information

This course is limited to 15 participants and is designed to facilitate experiential work and group processing of clinical material. Participants will be invited to discuss their specific needs and clinical questions at the outset of the course.  Clinical case discussions will respect client confidentiality.

Power point presentations and other templates/handouts will be provided to each participant with resource information and supplemental reading material.

Clinical case discussions will adhere to HIPPA regulations regarding client confidentiality.

This event is co-sponsored by Starbright Training Institute.  Starbright Training Institute is approved by the Association for Play Therapy to offer continuing education specific to play therapy (APT Provider No. 96-029). 

Additional Continuing Education credits for clock hours, not specific to play therapy, will be provided through the Commonwealth Educational Seminars (  There is an additional $25 fee for those professionals interested in continuing education clock hours for social work, counseling, MFT, and psychology.  Checks are made out to Starbright Training Institute (or cash paid at training, no credit cards).

Starbright Training Institute conducts one- to four-day Intensives at its facility at 8626 Lee Highway, Ste. 200-A, Fairfax, VA   22031 (Located adjacent to Gil Institute)

Eliana Gil, Ph.D., Director, Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:703-980-2886.  Email:  Web Page: and

 Workshop Presenter:  Jodi Cobb, Ph.D., Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy, Therapist, Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education

 Jodi Cobb, Ph.D., LMFT in Virginia

Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education

 Jodi Cobb, Ph.D., LCMFT in Maryland

Peer Bridges, LLC