Meet Our Director & Faculty

Welcome to the Play Strong Institute

We are dedicated to providing continuing education and training to a new generation of play therapists, advancing study and research in play therapy and neuroscience, and enriching the lives of children and families through counseling that is highly integrated with the science of interpersonal neurobiology, trauma-informed care, play and the expressive arts.

Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, PhD
Founder Executive Director The Center for Connection
Meet Our Executive Director

Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, PhD is the Founder/Executive Director of The Center for Connection, a multidisciplinary relationally based practice guided by the science of interpersonal neurobiology, and the Play Strong Institute, a specialist hub for play therapy for children and families and play-based training for parents and professionals. Dr. Bryson is the co-author (with Dan Siegel) of two New York Times bestsellers: THE WHOLE-BRAIN CHILD (Random House Delacorte 2011) and NO-DRAMA DISCIPLINE (Random House Bantam 2014), as well as the recently released book THE YES BRAIN (Random House Bantam January 2018). She is a pediatric and adolescent psychotherapist who makes frequent media appearances and keynotes conferences and conducts workshops for parents, educators, and clinicians all over the world. She is the Child Development Specialist at Saint Mark’s School in Altadena, CA, and the Director of Child Development for Camp Chippewa in Cass Lake, Minnesota. Tina earned her PhD from the University of Southern California, where her research explored attachment science, childrearing theory, and the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology.

Tina emphasizes that before she’s a psychotherapist, or author, or anything else, she’s a mom. She limits her clinical practice and speaking engagements so that she can spend time with her family. Alongside her husband of 21 years, parenting her three boys is what makes her happiest: “They’re my heart. Their personalities make life so much fun. They’ve also made my research very personal, helping bring together the different roles I play in my life, where I’m part-time educator/researcher, and full-time Little-League-mom/super-Jedi-spy-with-laser-powers. As I’ve studied attachment and childrearing theory and the science of how brains work, I’ve been able to apply that knowledge and let it help me parent more the way I want: lovingly, intentionally, and effectively.”

Tina’s professional life now focuses on taking research and theory from various fields of science, and offering it in a way that’s clear, realistic, humorous, and immediately helpful. As she puts it, “For parents, clinicians, and teachers, learning about how kids’ (and their own) brains work is surprisingly practical, informing how they approach discipline, how they help kids deal with everyday struggles, and ultimately how they connect with the children they care about.”

Our mission is to promote best practices in Child-Centered Play Therapy training with a focus on the brain and relationships for graduate students, pre-licensed and licensed professionals in counseling, psychology, social work, family therapy, and integrative mental health. We always incorporate the latest research on the developing mind, brain, and relationships working from a neurobiology framework in play therapy to better understand the needs of children who experience stress, anxiety, and trauma and help develop stronger emotional resilience.

Because children are better at expressing emotions through their actions, the distinct advantage of play therapy is that children express their ideas and feelings through creativity and hands-on innovation. Research shows that our brains develop and get connected from the bottom up, so we begin with body movement and sensory experiences and allow children to make a natural progression to complex thinking, emotional awareness, and mature communication. In play therapy, children can share their life stories, form new connections and build confidence around previous challenges that have been difficult, uncomfortable, worrisome, confusing, or chaotic. A creatively attuned play therapist responds skillfully and effectively to clarify their needs, help them express their emotions, find new solutions, practice new skills, and rewire healthy brain connections in a way that feels most natural, comfortable, and yes, even fun and enjoyable to children!

Improving quality play therapy education and training for prospective play therapists and building competence in the neurorelational framework that respects the individual differences of children, teens and young adults are of particular importance to us. Our team of therapists, supervisors, and instructors has spent many years studying and practicing evidence-based, research-supported approaches in play therapy guided by the science of interpersonal neurobiology. We are very proud to share our knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for teaching and working holistically with children and families. Join us in the movement to create stronger, healthier, more resilient kids through play!

Georgie Wisen-Vincent, LMFT RPT-S
Managing Director The Play Strong Institute
Meet Our Managing Director

Georgie Wisen-Vincent, LMFT RPT-S is the Managing Director and Head of Faculty for The Play Strong Institute, a continuing education and training organization for professionals and parents. She is a Teaching Professor in the Play Therapy Program at Loma Linda University and a Clinical Supervisor of Play Therapy Practicum at the Loma Linda Behavioral Health Institute.

Georgie has the distinction of earning a postgraduate Master’s Degree in Child Centered Play Therapy at the University of Roehampton, London, United Kingdom. She maintains a private practice working with children and families at The Center for Connection in Pasadena, CA, headed by Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, co-author with Daniel Siegel, MD, of The Whole Brain Child, No Drama Discipline, and The Yes Brain.

Georgie is a frequent speaker to parents and professional audiences on the topics of Play Therapy, Collaborative Parent-Child Play, and the Neuroscience of Play. She is also a Member of the British Association of Play Therapists and the American Association for Play Therapy.

Play Strong Institute Faculty

Annalise Kordell, LCSW

Clinical Director of The Center for Connection and a Play Therapy Supervisor at the Play Strong Institute. Annalise received her Master of Arts in Social Work from the University of Chicago and completed her Bachelors at Pennsylvania State University. Annalise works primarily with adolescents and their parents towards understanding feelings and changes from a neurodevelopmental and physiological perspective, uncovering the origins of challenging behaviors and providing strategies and tools rooted in the latest developments in Interpersonal Neurobiology and mindfulness. She previously lead a team at the Institute for Girls Development in Pasadena, California, where she coordinated and ran therapy groups focused on girls' empowerment and healthy childhood and adolescence.

Jennifer Shim Lovers, LMFT

Play Therapy Supervisor at The Center for Connection Play Strong Institute. Jennifer received a Master of Science in Marital & Family Therapy from Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychology and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. Jennifer focuses on attachment relationships and multicultural perspectives in her work with individuals, couples, children and families. She specializes in parenting consultation and perinatal and fertility support for families. Jennifer is the lead supervisor of graduate trainees in school-based counseling at Aveson and Odyssey Charter Schools in Altadena, California and she maintains a private practice at The Center for Connection in Pasadena, California.

Dr. Sharon Tan, PsyD

Play Therapy Supervisor at The Center for Connection Play Strong Institute. Dr. Tan received her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University and her Bachelors from the National University of Singapore. Dr. Tan is a graduate fellow from the Infant-Parent Mental Health Postgraduate Certificate Program from the University of Massachusetts and is currently a California endorsed Infant-Family & Early Childhood Mental Health (0-5) Specialist. Dr. Tan specializes in play therapy approaches based in attachment theory and child development primarily focused on early childhood parent-child relationships and maintains a private practice at The Center for Connection in Pasadena, CA.

Allie Bowne Schreiner, LMFT

Play Therapy Supervisor at The Center for Connection Play Strong Institute. Allie received her Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology and Bachelors in Psychology from UCLA. Allie has been trained in DIR-Floortime Therapy and is a proponent of the curative and transformative power of play. She has a Certificate in Perinatal Mental Health and specializes in Emotional Focused Therapy for couples She maintains a private practice at The Center for Connection in Pasadena, California.

Dr. Meredith Murphy, PhD

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, emphasis in Family and Child Clinical Psychology, sub-emphasis in Child Psychology, at the California School of Professional Psychology and a Bachelor's in Psychology at New York University. Dr. Murphy completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in child and adolescent psychotherapy at the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center and worked as a Program Coordinator and Clinical Supervisor of the Adolescent and Child Therapy Program at The Maple Counseling Center, a non-profit community mental health agency in Beverly Hills. Dr. Murphy is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Clinical PsyD. and Clinical PhD. programs at the California School of Professional Psychology and maintains a private practice specializing in child and family play therapy in Hollywood, California.

Rebekah Springs, LMFT RPT

Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and her Bachelors from Azusa Pacific University. Using the framework of interpersonal neurobiology, child development, and the DIR model for intervention, Rebekah has many years' experience at Real Connections Child Development Institute where she provided parent support and education, DIR/Floortime Therapy focusing on children and families with diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder, sensory processing differences, medical fragility and Down Syndrome. Rebekah currently specializes in Infant and Toddler Mental Health at Portland State University and maintains a private practice at Firefly Counseling in Portland, Oregon.

Felisha Cullum, AMFT

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and graduate study in Play Therapy at George Fox University, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University. Felisha is an adjunct faculty member at the Loma Linda University Play Therapy Certificate Program where she teaches and supervises graduate students. Felisha is the current president of the San Bernardino Chapter of the California Association for Play Therapy (CalAPT) and maintains a private practice at The Center for Connection Play Strong Institute in Pasadena, California.

Our Primary Approaches

Child Centered Play Therapy (CCPT)

Child Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) is a developmentally responsive, play-based mental health intervention for children ages 3–11 who are experiencing social, emotional, behavioral, or relational disorders. CCPT uses play and the therapeutic relationship to provide a safe, consistent therapeutic environment in which a child can experience full acceptance, empathy, and understanding from the counselor and process inner experiences and feelings through play and symbols. In CCPT, a child’s experience within the counseling relationship is the factor that is most healing and meaningful in creating lasting, positive change. The goal of CCPT is to develop the child’s potential to move toward integration and self-enhancing ways of being.

The CCPT model is designed to be administered to individual children by mental health professionals who have received extensive training and supervision in the CCPT protocol. Although CCPT is typically delivered in 16–20 weekly, 45-minute individual play sessions, the CCPT model has also been implemented in the school setting following a 16-session format delivered twice weekly for 30 minutes over 8 weeks. CCPT can be provided in the context of longer treatment requirements and may be used in a small group format. The CCPT treatment manual contains the protocol and skills checklist for use by CCPT-trained therapists and supervisors.

The program has been implemented with children who present with trauma symptoms, academic and speech impairment, chronic illness, anxiety, aggression, attention problems, hyperactivity, or disruptive classroom behavior, as well as children who present with comorbid internalizing and externalizing problems impeding their holistic development.

Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB)

Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB), a term coined by Dr. Daniel Siegel, studies the way the brain grows and is influenced by personal relationships. Recent studies have discovered that brain growth occurs throughout the lifespan. IPNB explores the potential for healing trauma by using positive and secure influences on the brain. Conditions once thought to be permanent now have the bright potential for healing and growth. IPNB has broad applications that are useful for parenting, mental health, addictions, education, and health care.

Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) is an exciting interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, complexity theory, and relationship studies. Other related fields of study include; affective, social, and cognitive neuroscience. The interpersonal neurobiology perspective extends from the intricacies of neurobiology to the level of the interpersonal world. Because interpersonal neurobiology involves so many disciplines and areas of practice, we will look at Play Therapy through the IPNB lens to promote core knowledge while facilitating each student’s professional application of the framework.