Wednesday, July 10, 2024

How to Keep Cool When it’s Hot Hot Hot

by Elizabeth Venart, Resiliency Center Founder and Director (and playful poet)

What are your tricks to beat Summer heat?

Iced coffee, salads, and popsicle treats?

Sprinklers, water hoses cooling hot feet? 

Reading in shade, hammock for a seat?

Art museums, libraries, theater for a play?  

Driving to the shore, shopping in cape May?

Pool time, swimming, Marco Polo games all day? 

Boat rides, going fast, breezes on the bay?

As for me, I enjoy all of these and more.

Ocean waves at sunset, walking along the shore. 

Fireworks, fireflies, relaxed summer evenings I adore.

And promise of autumn color, coolness that’s in store. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The Hope of Renewal

by Elizabeth Campbell, MS, LPC, RPT-S

        And in the spring, I shed my skin, and it blows away with the changing winds”.  

        — Florence + The Machine

        “The wound is the place the light enters you.”  — Rumi

I may be one of the few individuals that feels this way, but I love winter.  I love playing in the snow, hot tea, a warm fire, and hiking when the woods are empty, quiet, and crisp.  I love it so much that I felt a bit grumpy when the weather started to warm.  As a Highly Sensitive Person, change is challenging and I wasn’t ready yet.  Until the flowers bloomed.  

Every day I find myself amazed by the miracle of the world coming to life again.  I say this fully knowing how cheesy this sounds.  But gosh darn it if I am not smiling at a new flowering tree the next day.  

Part of my joy and appreciation for this rebirth of nature is the hope that it brings.  As I said before, I like the dark and cold of the winter.  The juxtaposition of a warm fire and twinkling holiday lights reminds me that light is present even in the darkest of times.  As a trauma therapist (and a human), I have seen so much darkness.  You can become acclimated to it, even expect it.  Something about this spring lit up the clarity inside me that as we hold space for and appreciate the darkness, we make room for all of the light to come in.  

I see this hope when I support people in EMDR therapy for trauma.  As they move into their pain, so often the other side is compassion, clarity, calm, or perspective.  It is a renewal of the spirit.  

As we move through this renewal and get closer to the fun, sun, and light of summer, I invite you to pause.  Perhaps there was a moment in your life in which a single bud or a glimmer of light started to shine in on your pain.  So often we don’t even notice that first blossom until the flowers are all around us.  Pausing in this first moment of transition may allow even greater gratitude for the full, lush growth and light of summer.  The fullness of opening to all of the light and the joy.

Elizabeth Campbell is a Licensed Profession Counselor, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, and EMDR Consultant in Training who provides empowerment and strength-based support to individuals in personal growth and change.  She specializes in play therapy with children, supporting Highly Sensitivity, and IFS-informed EMDR for all ages. She provides supervision and consultation for licensure as well as EMDR and play therapy certification.   If you would like to connect with Elizabeth, reach out at or 610-757-8163 or learn more at

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Writing—not just for writers!

by Rachel Kobin 

You don’t have to wake up at ungodly hours, hunch over your keyboard, tap out hundreds of words, and then go to your day job to reap the psychological benefits of writing. Even if you think you’re not good at it, writing can enhance your life. As a human, you have the right to express yourself and tell your story. Your voice is unique, and that voice can be used privately as part of your self-care practice or shared to the extent you find rewarding. 

You already have everything you need to start

Most people use writing to do things like write to-do lists, shopping lists, texts, and memos for work. This kind of writing does not help our mental health, but it is an entry point to keeping a journal. By looking at those lists or even your calendar on a regular basis and asking, “What stands out? What was upsetting or enjoyable about any of those things?” you will find something resonates with you. It may even generate a physical feeling like raising your pulse rate. Once you’ve locked into one of these items, start writing. Don’t worry about the quality of your sentences or your vocabulary, just move what’s in your head and body onto the page without worrying about the result. 

This kind of journal entry gives your future self a picture of your what your life was life, which you’ll be grateful to have later. It also helps you think through the emotional aspects of your life. As writer Joan Didion said: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Moving your thoughts and feelings from your head to the page helps you gain clarity on what tends to upset you, and perhaps learn how to prevent or manage events like this more effectively in the future. Identifying people or events that make you feel good help you welcome more of these experiences into your life. 

Be kind to the writer within

Above all, make every effort to avoid judging what you write. Many people have had teachers or peers that shamed them about their writing. In my first year of college, a group of students told me I didn’t know how to write an introductory paragraph. I called my mother, a published author, I needed a writing tutor. The professor returned my paper with this message: “A– Never listen to your peers.” So, when you sit down to write, thank your peers, those internal voices screaming mean things at you for trying to protect you from taking risks and ask them to go play outside. This is a risk worth taking. 

In fact, expressive writing—writing about your thoughts and feelings—has been scientifically shown to increase our ability to regulate our emotions, improve mood, memory, self-esteem, and decrease stress levels. With all of those benefits, why not try a journaling prompt right now? I invite you to try one of the most popular journaling exercises (from a professor at the University of Iowa) we do in The Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop: Use the alphabet (A-Z) to loosen topics from your mind. Simply start listing them. For instance, A is for Anaconda, B is for the blue ink stain on my floor, C is for Chocolate, D, the delights of spring, E-clipse… As soon as you find a topic you want to write about, start writing. On another occasion, start at the next letter. In my case, if I chose the eclipse, I would start the next time at the letter F. 

That F is for fun and flights of fancy, flying in the face of rules, and flinging those fresh words around to fabulously to face fears, facilitate fulfillment, and fire up your fabulous self. 

Rachel Kobin is the Founder and Director of Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop [Insert link to to:]. Rachel began writing in the third grade when she adapted the novel Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh into a play. She went on to write poetry, a screenplay, synopses, critiques of screenplays, copy for advertising, a novel, internal and marketing communications for corporations, market research reports, a TV pilot, and more. Since she began facilitating creative writing workshops and provided editing and coaching services in 2011, she has found that seeing other writers succeed—however they define success—even more thrilling than seeing her own name in print. She is proud to be part of Philadelphia’s robust writers’ community. 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Spring into Growth

by Therese Daniels, LPC, CNIT (Certified Nature Informed Therapist)

We have been conditioned by society to set new goals in January, the start of a new year. Start fresh, stop doing this, start doing that, get to the gym. While in theory this may seem like a good idea, it goes against our roots, against Mother Nature. Bears hibernate, trees, plants, and vegetables delay growth. Nature rests in the Winter and maybe we should too. 

Spring is the season of planting and growing. Many people lose motivation pretty quickly for those goals they set at the start of January. An article in Time magazine states that as many as 80% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February and only 8% of people stick with them the entire year. But think about how you feel in the Spring. When that first sunny day hits, the temperature is above 55 degrees (which feels hot because our bodies have adapted to the cold) and you want to rip off those socks and break out the flip flops and let your toes breathe and soak up the sunshine! Motivation for goals is more likely to stick at this time of year because that is what is natural. This is when we plant seeds for flowers and food to bloom later in the season. The animals wake up and are rested and energized for new things to come. Colors come back! This is a reason why setting new goals in the Spring vs. the Winter is something to be considered.

Goal setting and comfort zones

As a Certified Nature Informed Therapist, I have been able to encourage people to use the many benefits of nature to help them in goal setting and in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Some of the greatest things in life involve a certain level of feeling uneasy. Meeting new people, starting a new job, moving to a different home, exercising, parenting, even love has a level of discomfort. If we ran from all of these things, what would happen? Not much. Growth mindset is a term that has become popular over the past several years. The general meaning of the term is that you thrive on challenge and don’t see failures as a setback, but a way to make shifts to continue to move forward and set new goals. To keep going, to grow. 

Last Spring, I was working with someone who had pretty severe performance anxiety and he had a big martial arts challenge coming up. We took our sessions to the trails and more importantly, to the creek. There is a swing that hangs under a large bridge that runs over the creek. My client showed a lot of interest in getting to the swing but was afraid to do so. There were steep and muddy hills with tree roots and branches and wet leaves along the way. And once you got down to the water’s edge you still had to enter the water and navigate slippery rocks to get to the middle of the creek where the swing hung. It took some time, but by the summer, he was swinging on that swing and feeling so proud. Each week we got closer and closer, and he felt more and more brave. Throughout our sessions, I was able to use our experience in nature and transfer it to his fear of performing in front of others. He realized he could do things that felt scary and have success. A week after he went swinging, he took his martial arts test and passed with flying colors! 

I believe we can find a balance between allowing ourselves the time to rest and prepare while also believing in ourselves enough to face challenges and to get back up when we fall down. Look to nature to and follow its course. Going back to our roots and what is innately in us and around us can help us spring into growth! 

Therese M. Daniels, MA, LPC, is a Certified Nature-Informed Therapist who has been in the mental health field over 20 years. She provides individual, couples, and family counseling for children, teens, and adults. She offers regular nature walks and creates nature retreats to introduce the power of nature to support healing and wellness. She specializes in supporting people with anxiety, depression, self-esteem struggles, life transitions, and more. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Community Care

by Elizabeth Campbell, MS, LPC, RPT-S

The truth of who we are, is that we are, because we belong. It’s in our DNA.” — Desmond Tutu

One of the most relaxed and oxytocin-filled times that I recall is waking up on my rope cot in my host family’s home in Ganeshpur, Nepal.  It was a chilly morning, I was curled up in my sleeping bag, and I heard the soft raspy voice of my host mother talking in the next room and engaging in her morning chores.  It was my first international service trip and first time staying with a host family.  I was amazed that I felt so connected to a family and a community that I could not easily communicate with.  The deep relationship that we formed through working towards a mutual goal:  building a school for the community, and caring for another in the process, was life-changing.  

The communal nature of Nepal’s culture and all of the rural communities I stayed in while doing international service work stands in stark contrast to our culture.  Families lived in adjoining homes or on the same property and shared chores and childcare.  Friends and family members were together throughout the day and no one was left with the isolation of a never ending to do list with no support.  Parents learned by example by seeing generation after generation raising children.  There is an oft repeated joke among parents when people say “It takes a village (to raise a child),” “How do I sign up?!”  

Unfortunately, for many in our culture, the village is not there.  Whether that is due to living far away from family members, cutting off toxic relationships, or loss, often modern American individuals are often isolated and overwhelmed.  We saw in the pandemic how isolation can breed stress and subsequent mental health and wellbeing challenges and the Surgeon General recently release research showing that it impacts physical and mental health.  Yet our society continues to value independence, which cuts us off from the benefits of interdependence.  

All of that being said, I am not ready to sign up for communal living.  I love spending time with others and then going home to have quiet time to recharge my Highly Sensitive, introverted batteries.  I say all of this to highlight the gift that interdependence brings.  I often see this gift in The Resiliency Center practitioner community.  The same wise clinicians that supported me when I began my practice are supporting me as I support supervisees to learn and grow.  I see this gift in my friendships.  I recommended to my neighbor the book Sensitive and she loaned me Hunt, Gather, Parent (a must read when thinking about community).  We so often think about self-care as taking bubble baths and doing yoga, which is lovely.  I encourage us all to also care for ourselves by filling up both ourselves and others in connection and support.  

Elizabeth Campbell is a Licensed Profession Counselor, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, and EMDR Consultant in Training who provides empowerment and strength-based support to individuals in personal growth and change.  She specializes in play therapy with children, supporting Highly Sensitivity, and IFS-informed EMDR for all ages. She provides supervision and consultation for licensure as well as EMDR and play therapy certification.   If you would like to connect with Elizabeth, reach out at or 610-757-8163 or learn more at

Bonding for Life: FirstPlay Therapy

by Vanessa Mortillo

How do we know when we are in a healthy intimate relationship? What might we notice? Empathy? Mutuality? Comforting Touch? Security? Are skills for healthy relationships something we are born with, or can we learn these?  Expanding out further into community, friendships and social interactions: How do we balance the needs of others in a way that allows us to be part of a community without losing sight of ourselves?

The science shows that we are actually not born with these skills, but that the bonding during infancy and in our earliest years creates a roadmap for healthy relationships in the long term and is vital to the baby’s developing brain. Healthy bonding in infancy and childhood establishes a safe base for children and a felt sense of confidence in the world — referred to in child development research as secure attachment.  Without nurturing touch, interaction and play, babies cannot survive and feel secure. Through caregiver attunement, or the caregiver’s ability to notice and attend to their baby’s needs, a baby begins to feel securely attached, learns empathy, healthy coping strategies, a positive sense of self, and a good relationship with their body.

Attunement can be challenging with infants because they are not able to tell us what their needs are with language. In an ideal world, we would have all received attuned caregiving — full of back and forth play and connected interactions  — and enter parenthood knowing how to do this with our babies. However, in our human world, many of us may not have received this and grapple with increasing demands for our attention (including work obligations and technology). In addition, complications in the birthing process can include trauma and mental health challenges for parents and babies that impacts these early bonding experiences.

The good news is that regardless of what has happened in our lives, we can learn skills for healthy relationships. No matter our age or stage of life, it is possible to develop our abilities, changing ourselves and fostering healthy growth in our children. To help parents build these critical skills, Dr. Janet Courtney, an internationally recognized teacher and play therapist, developed FirstPlay Therapy, a short-term intervention, to support parents with skills for attuning to and bonding with their baby or child under 5. FirstPlay engages the powers of play, infant massage/touch, and story to build your bond and set your baby up for healthy growth and development.

In FirstPlay therapy, parents learn skills for relaxing themselves, creating daily times for connection with their child, reading and responding to their child’s cues, fostering back and forth playful interactions, and providing healthy touch. The benefits of FirstPlay impact the child’s development, increase caregiver confidence, and support parents with postpartum depression. And even better news: FirstPlay interventions can be done with children up to 5 years of age to continue to strengthen healthy bonding. 

For more information about FirstPlay therapy, contact Licensed Professional Counselor and trained FirstPlay therapist Vanessa Mortillo at or (267) 507-5793. Vanessa has a play therapy office at The Resiliency Center where she works with children and families to support healthy attachment, facilitate trauma healing, and help children with sensitivity, autism, and emotional and behavioral challenges to cope better, enjoy life, and thrive.