Zones across the Week

Going along with the theme of Zones of regulation, in the past few blog posts, as a parent or caregiver, you can track your child’s zone across the week. Some parents can use this option, to reward good behaviors that they might see. Tracking can be as simple as having a sheet of paper with all 7 days written on it with a blank next to each day or it can be set-up in more table like manner with the 7 days across the top of the table and the four zones on the side of the table. Each day you and your child can think about how they mostly felt that day. While a child can fluctuate in and out of the zones throughout the day try to think about the day overall and what zone would you label that day. Be sure to reinforce the idea that having a green day is having a good day. Optional: At the end of each week if the child has more green days than yellow or red days, reward your child in some manner whether it be money, sweets, a toy, etc.

For more information please see the reference below:

Kuypers, L. M., & Winner, M. G. (2011). Chapter 3: GO!!! In The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control (pp. 86-90). San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.

Checking In with A Child’s Zones

Piggy backing onto the last blogpost about the Zones of Regulation, one thing that you can do as a parent or caregiver is a Zones check-in. This helps a child be able to verbalize how they are feeling. It is a simple activity that you can hang on the fridge or somewhere out in the open. This activity is to help the child recognize what zone they are currently in. On a sheet of paper or dry erase board write “I feel ______, I’m in the ______ zone.” As a parent/caregiver, you can make color coordinated squares that say Green zone, Blue zone, Yellow zone, and Red zone. These will fill the “I’m in the (Blank-insert square) zone.” You can also cut out different feelings that coordinate to each color zone. For example, write Happy on a green square. Having multiple squares can make it easy to change the zone and feeling. As a parent or caregiver, you can also do this as an activity with your child to explain to your child what feeling coordinates to what zone. Communication is key and it can be important as a parent/caregiver to ask your child how they are feeling and what zone would go with that feeling. This helps the child to recognize and comprehend what they are feeling and how it relates to each zone. It is important to note that a child can move through different zones throughout the day. If you realize that your child is starting to move into a different zone, then you can go back to that dry erase board or paper and switch out the zones and feelings. This can let your child know that you are paying attention to them and help them to see that they might be losing self-control.

For more information please see the reference below.

Kuypers, L. M., & Winner, M. G. (2011). Chapter 3: GO!!! In The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control (pp. 96-99). San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.

The Zones of Regulation – Review

Are you looking for a way to help the children in your life, identify their moods and control their emotions?   The Zones of Regulation were created to help children learn self-regulation and emotional control. Self-regulation also known as self-control or impulse control is the ability to control one’s emotions, needs and impulses in order to meet the demands of the environment in a socially acceptable way. The Zones of Regulation is a way to teach children how to develop and progress self-regulation by educating them how to recognize and communicate their feelings. The zones can also teach children how to effectively use different tools and techniques to move throughout the zones. There are four zones of regulation: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red.

Blue Zone: This is when the body is in a low state of alertness and the body or brain is moving slowly. Typical emotions can include: Sad, Tired, Sick, Bored, Shy, Depressed, or Hurt.

Green Zone: This zone shows a regulated state of mind or being in control. This zone is optimal for schoolwork and being social. Typical emotions can include: Calm, Happy, Focused, Proud, Good, Relaxed, or Thankful.

Yellow Zone: This zone is when the body/mind is in a heightened state of alertness where a child can be squirmy, sensory seeking and starting to lose some control. Typical emotions can include: Stress, Anxious, Silly, Annoyed, Frustrated, Overwhelmed, or Nervous.

Red Zone: This zone is when there is an extreme heightened state of alertness or very intense feelings. Typically, a person is not in control of one’s body when in this zone. Typical emotions can include: Aggressive, Anger, Elated, Yelling, Panic, Terror or Explosive Behavior.

For more information please see the reference below.

Kuypers, L. M., & Winner, M. G. (2011). The zones of regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control. San Jose, CA: Think Social Publishing Inc.



Anger Busters

Here are a few things to do when you or a loved one can start feeling angry:

  • Sing along (yes, outloud!) to your favorite song
  • Go to the batting cages (or golfing range)
  • Draw or paint what your anger looks like (or feels like)
  • Seek out someone (or a pet) to give you a hug
  • Count to 10
  • Go for a run
  • Call a friend who you can talk to (vent)
  • Throw ice up against a brick wall (or down at the grown on your driveway or sidewalk)
  • Garden (pull weeds, plant things, rake leaves up)
  • Journal
  • Take your dog for a walk (or neighbors dog!)


Jennie Wilson is a child and adolescent therapist. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor.



I came across a facebook status that said, If you FAIL never give up because F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt in Learning”   I love this message and smile when I see it because such a small word has such a huge meaning.  So many times when someone make mistakes or fails at something the first reaction is to immediately give up. Why give up?   Some give up because maybe they have no encouragement from others.   Others don’t attempt their tasks or goals again because maybe it’s too hard or it took too long.

Many times, what people see in success is SUCCESS!  That’s it. What people don’t see is: the disappointment, the persistence, the sacrifice, the failure, the dedication, the hard work, discipline…we forget that failure is such a common experience!  Did you know some of the most successful people – have failed at some point in their lives? My favorite one to share with students or teens in my office who are struggling in their classes is Albert Einstein.  Did you know he was expelled from school due to failing grades?  I share with others another favorite  – Dr. Seuss.  Did you know his first book was rejected REPEATEDLY by various publishers before finally being released? Can any of us imagine our childhood without Dr. Seuss books? Thankfully Albert Einstein and Dr. Suess kept trying.

If you have had less than stellar experiences with a previous counselor or you have had disappointing experiences in previous counseling sessions, I encourage you to try counseling again. Whether your counselor failed you or you dropped out of counseling – it’s ok to start over again.  Sometimes that might be asking for a different counselor within the counseling practice you are going to. Or maybe that’s looking for a specific type of personality or specific credentials…keep looking until you can find someone who’s a good fit and who can help you on the path to feeling better.    Whether you are a couple on the verge of divorce and counseling “didn’t work”  try someone else.  Or maybe you have a resistant teenager who has blew through 3 counselors in the past 6 months because of one thing after another, look for someone who specializes in resistant teenagers.  Or maybe you have a 5 year old with some extreme behaviors that you are at a loss for what to do, seek out a provider who primarily works with this age and has additional education and credentials to help you and your family with those behaviors.

So, I leave you today – keep trying until you get the results you want.   In the words of Dory, from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, Just keep Swimming,  Just keep swimming swimming swimming….”

Jennie Wilson is a child and adolescent therapist. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Summer Edition

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Summer Edition

Ah! At last, summer has arrived! Take a deep breath and smell the warm, fresh air, feel the chill of a newly-opened swimming pool, and finally relax from the busier seasons behind. The idea of summer is typically what gets us all through, yet summer is not all it is said to be. From a psychological standpoint, summer can actually be detrimental to our health. So, let us take a look at a few themes that have been found within the minds of youth and even adults in this next season.


To begin, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real mental deficit that affects a large amount of people annually.  It is most associated with the winter season for the obvious cold, dark, and less-active trends. As we enter into summer, it is important to recognize the hidden trends buried within this supposedly “freeing” season.

ADHD Medication Withdraws:

As children/adolescents/adults are prescribed with ADHD medications throughout the general school year, summer seems to be a time to put these medications on hold. Students no longer have to focus in a classroom, so what is the point of these medications in the summer? Truthfully, this mindset can be problematic as these medications still hold great importance for children and adolescents. By skipping out on the prescribed medication for the summer, this could result in anxiety, mood swings, and depression. Keep in mind that it is important to stay on the medication as prescribed and if you are thinking of stopping, speak to your doctor first for the safest transition possible.

Depression and Anxiety:

Shockingly enough, it is possible to be depressed and/or anxious in the summer time. It is easy to neglect these feelings with all of the “fun” activities at our fingertips, but we should be making an effort to truly understand the dangers of these emotions. As our busy schedules come to a close and we suddenly have “nothing to do”, depression kicks in, with anxiety quickly following after. To prevent these detrimental mindsets, refer to the prevention techniques below.


With summer being far less structured than most seasons, loneliness comes into play as most people are out and about enjoying themselves with us left behind. For adults, loneliness may be near as work interferes with quality time in the day to enjoy the weather and fellowship. For children in school especially, summer is a lonely time as they have limited access/communication to their friends from school. It is important to create a stable community to surround ourselves with so that we feel that sense of involvement.


Prevention Techniques:

  • Go outside as much as possible to enjoy the weather
  • Sit down with your child and discuss medical goals regarding medication for the summer
  • Create structure in your day to prevent loneliness and depression
  • Volunteer, join a club, or participate in a sport to create friendships and self-actualization
  • Find a job that will give purpose to daily routines and allow structure
  • Set play dates for children to see their friends from school
  • Use vacation time wisely



Weaver, Rheyanne. “Dealing with Mental Health Issues During the Summer.” Therapy Blog. N.p., 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 01 June 2016.



Miranda Chaney is an Undergraduate Student Intern at Step By Step Counseling, LLC from Lindenwood University.

Katherine Boone Outstanding Play Therapist Award

Congratulations to our very own Jennie Wilson for being honored with the Katherine Boone Outstanding Play Therapist award, the biggest honor that someone can be given from the Missouri Association for Play Therapy. In order to obtain this honor she had to have been nominated by her fellow colleagues or peers in the field.  Additionally, to obtain this honor she had to be responsible for “…innovations in play therapy, for providing leadership in the further development of play therapy, or for performing an outstanding service to the school or community.”    She was presented with this award at the awards ceremony during the 2016 Missouri Association for Play Therapy’s annual conference in Columbia, Missouri.

Congratulations Jennie!


Here, Jennie receives her award from Missouri Association for Play Therapy's Board President Ann Elliot

Here, Jennie receives her award from Missouri Association for Play Therapy’s Board President Ann Elliot.





National Foster Care Month 2016

The success of our country tomorrow depends on the well-being of our children today. During National Foster Care Month, we lift up our Nation’s foster children, celebrate the selfless men and women who embrace children in the foster care system, and we recommit to helping more children find permanency so they can feel stable, grounded, and free to fulfill their limitless potential.” – Barack Obama

So, happy National Foster Care Month  to all youth, parents, caregivers, and more! To celebrate appropriately, it is only accurate to explain the history behind Foster Care Month and why it is important to us all. National Foster Care Month is absolutely a time to rejoice and be grateful to all of those who work with foster care children. It is a time to not only celebrate, but also put our focus to children who are waiting in foster homes for a solid and permanent adoptive family. Along with foster children waiting for a home, we also keep in mind those adolescents who are aging out of the system when they turn 18. It is important to gain knowledge and spread awareness on this topic in order to improve solidified foster families and benefit those who are seeking those families. All in all, let us celebrate and continually be in remembrance of the touching opportunity we have every day (and especially this month) to change lives for the better!

Facts about Foster Care:

  • It all began in 1988, when Senator Strom Thurmond, with the encouragement from the National Foster Care Association, introduced a resolution to proclaim May as National Foster Care Month.
  • Over 400,000 children remain in the foster care system.
  • Tens of thousands of youth age out of foster care before they find their forever family Only half of children in foster care complete high school by age 18 and less than 5 percent graduate college.
  • Young people who age out of foster care without a permanent home are often at higher risk of entering the criminal justice system, and they can face greater challenges to completing an education, obtaining high-quality health care, and securing gainful employment.
  • Difficult outcomes of foster care children are often exaggerated further when they are placed in group homes.

Tips to Surviving Foster Care Parenting:

  1. Your child is a child (regardless of background). They will act out, scream, fuss, and often be ignorant to rules. Keep in mind that they have been exposed to abnormal childhood memories. If they act out, use alternate methods to keep their behavior on track. Restrict punishment from being too harsh. Children just need a little love.
  2. Remember their birthdays and other special memories! They need to be shown that their life matters (especially to their newfound family).
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk about biological parents only if your child wants to. Make sure to be honest and open with them.
  4. Make positive and fun incentives for your foster child when they achieve good behavior!
  5. Don’t give up on your child. Keep in mind that these children are affected every time they are dumped and moved to a new home. Try to keep them as long as you can!


“Presidential Proclamation — National Foster Care Month, 2016.” The White House. The White House, 28 Apr. 2016. Web. 18 May 2016.

“The History of National Foster Care Month.” Parenting. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2016.


Miranda Chaney is an Under-Graduate Student Intern at Step By Step Counseling, LLC from Lindenwood University.


Play Therapy Week 2016

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation
Plato – 427–347 BC
Happy National Play Therapy Week to all the play therapists out there, and clients who are receiving play therapy services!!  What a great opportunity to celebrate how powerful play therapy is.  Anyone who has met me knows how passionate I am about this field. What is Play Therapy?   For me, as a Registered Play Therapist, play therapy is the way that I’m able to help children, adolescents and families.  Play therapy helps me reach children using developmentally appropriate theories and techniques to help them through whatever they are struggling with.   Need a more detailed explanation? Check out this video from APT!    Andrew Video, from Association for Play Therapy

Are you a lawyer, a parent, or a caseworker and you’re not sure that you buy into this whole “play therapy” scene?  I encourage you to check out my play therapy page, for a more descriptive explanation. If you still have questions, I would love an opportunity to invite you to my playroom and have an opportunity to address your concerns. At the office, I also have a binder full of research articles on the effectiveness of play therapy when working with children. Some of these research articles can also be found here:  MAPT
When looking for someone to work with children, I highly recommend finding someone with the credentials of a Registered Play Therapist or someone who’s under supervision for that credential.  What exactly is that?  The credentials of a Registered Play Therapist are conferred by the Association for Play Therapy (APT); a professional organization that helps advance play therapy by sponsoring credentialing, as well as promoting research and training. Play therapists can be licensed counselors, clinical social workers, psychologists and certified school counselors.  For those who are unfamiliar with this credential, to become an RPT,  one must have  earned either a masters or doctoral degree in mental health and have the clocked hours of play therapy training and clinical experience under supervision. Recently, APT has also added a new credential SB-RPT (School Based) which recognizes our amazing guidance counselors and the work they do with children.  For me, that clinical experience under supervision was what helped me develop into the play therapist I am today.

In our office we have 4 therapists who use play therapy with children. Below are some pictures of our office playrooms.  Everything is in these rooms are for a reason.  We have specific toys, with specific themes.


Office 1: View of Playroom from the door



Office 1: View of Sandtray shelves



Office 1: Other side of playroom



Office 2: View of Playroom inside of office



Office 2: View of Playroom from the door



Happy Play Therapy Week!

Middle School Support

Are you a parent of a middle school student? Do you constantly battle it out with your tween or young teen?   I work with this age group regularly, both in individual counseling and in group counseling.  This age group is amazingly awesome to have in the office, best of both worlds – the playfulness of a child and the growing maturity of a teenager.  We don’t know if we’ll get the sweet innocence of a child or the lashing out of a teenager but either way I love them unconditionally.

Here are some common themes that middle school students wish their families or parents knew.

  • Your tween or young teen might be moody.  While it’s important to set a level of respect in the house, as their guardian, do not take it personally.  We all have bad days. Your tween is still learning coping strategies of what to do when they feel that way. Give them the space to do that.
  • Explain why consequences are being placed, or why you are upset.  Believe it or not, while you may feel like it’s common sense, your tween or young teen may not totally understand what is going on.  Connecting the dots is a little challenging for this age group. Having the conversation while calm, allows the teen to understand it on a deeper level. Having rules and consequences posted in your house can also help them see the connection.
  • Respect them.  While they might be your kid, they are their own person, with opinions and values different from yours. Your comments will stick with them whether they are positive or negative.   Be remembered as the parent who supported their adolescent. Show them that THEY are valued, even if you disagree with what that is.
  • Show interest in them.  Laugh at their jokes or be involved in the story they are telling by asking questions.  They do care about what you have to say and how you respond to them. Let them know when you like something about them. Sometimes that might be just what they need to snap out of the funk.
  • Hang out with them.  While sometime we may not feel like we have anything in common, just spending time with them is vital. It doesn’t have to be a large event. The simple boring moments are what this age group remembers the most.  Parents can be watch the baseball game on tv, or it can be stopping by their school at lunch to eat lunch with them or even helping them with their chores while catching up on their week.  When you put down your screens or put aside your busy life, they will see that they are important, that they are valued.
  • While the tween or young teenager won’t admit it, they still need their guardians to help them self regulate – whether that be with time they spend in front of screens, social times with friends, unhealthy foods, etc.   This age group is still learning, and still need their guardians to be loving and set boundaries. They might not appreciate it in the moment, but one day they will.
  • One last thing, you do not need to “save the day” every time your tween or young teen is in trouble. Allow your tween or young teen to turn in an incomplete assignment or project or allow them to make choices that might be different than you would make yourself.  They need to experience those moments in order to learn from them.


Jennie Wilson is a child and adolescent therapist. She holds the credentials of a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor.