“Are Vampires Real?”

The Role of Symbolic Play in Emotional Development and Mental Health

Serena Wieder, PhD


Imagine three 6-year old boys as they debate this question, “Are vampires real?”  One, excitedly insists they are just cartoons you play over and over again and feels happy and excited. The second insists they are real, clinging to his mother as he tremulously proclaims they drink your blood and he is not safe.  The third lies on the floor and whispers he is happy and excited too. What makes the perceptions and emotions of these boys so different as they each climb the symbolic developmental ladder? How do we support this important journey to expand and symbolize the full range of emotions and understand what is real or not, what is safe or not, and regulate anxiety and behavior.  This journey often begins when children begin to recognize predators, a lion is after all not a kitty cat, and discover the good guy-bad guy saga in life. The other side of this journey is developing kindness, fairness, empathy, morality and knowing when to stand up for your beliefs.
This master class will examine the hierarchy of emotional development and the impact of sensory and motor processing challenges, developmental competencies, the purpose of magical thinking to overcome fears and anxiety, and the transitions towards reality testing. It will also explore how parents and caregivers respond to these emotions and reflect on their own and their child’s emotional experience.  Symbolic play derives from internal motivation, does not have to follow the rules, both transcends and reflects reality, and provides a place to communicate ideas and feelings without acting out in the safety of relationships.
Participants will have the opportunity to discuss challenges they encounter related to cases they are working with. Readings will be provided.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the hierarchy of emotional symbolic development and developmental anxieties
  • Identify sensory and movement challenges that create hurdles climbing the symbolic ladder
  • Describe the development of reality testing
  • Discuss the relevance to mental health
  • Analyze on your experience of symbolic play and parent-mediated intervention

Who should attend?

  • Advanced participants of all Profectum Academy courses working at symbolic levels
  • Professionals working actively with developmental interventions


Online via Zoom


5 sessions: Monday’s / 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm (EDT)

Start Date: Monday, December 2, 2019

  • Session 1 – Dec 2, 2019
  • Session 2 – Dec 9, 2019
  • Session 3 – Dec 16, 2019
  • Session 4 – Jan 6, 2020
  • Session 5 – Jan 13, 2020


$30 CEs (AOTA and NY Social Work)

Spaces are Limited

There has been an overwhelming response to this series and registration has reached its limit. 

Please contact beth.arena@profectum.org for information regarding the possibility of being wait listed for a future group.

Registration and Cancellation Policy

Registrations and payments must be received no later than Monday, November 25, 2019. Confirmations and receipts are furnished by email.

We DO NOT invoice for our programs. You must have a paid registration prior to the first class in order to receive the Zoom link info to attend.

Written cancellation or change notifications must be received no later than Monday, November 25, 2019 via email to emily.mohr@profectum.org. A cancellation/change processing fee of $25 will be charged.

After Monday, November 25, 2019, no refunds or credit for future events will be given. Substitute attendees are welcome but we must be notified with their name and contact information. Please understand that if you do not attend you are still liable for full payment.

In the unlikely event that this program is cancelled, you will be notified immediately via email and a credit will be issued toward a rescheduled conference, or the entire submitted registration fee will be refunded without further liability on the part of the organizer.

Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities & Special Needs Request

If you require ADA accommodations or have a special needs request, please email beth.arena@profectum.org at least 1-week prior to the course date so that arrangements can be made.

Continuing Education – AOTA & NY Social Work

Course Completion Requirements

Occupational Therapists/Occupational Therapy Assistants
Profectum Foundation is an AOTA Approved Provider of continuing education. Provider #9365.
Master Class Symbolic Thinking is offered for up to.75 AOTA CEUs / 7.5 Contact Hours (Intermediate)

The assignment of AOTA CEs does not imply endorsement of specific course content, products, or clinical procedures by AOTA. See course completion requirements section below.

AOTA Classification Codes that apply to this Course: Domain of OT: Occupation; Domain of OT: Client Factors; OT Therapy Process: Intervention
Instructional Methods that apply to this Course:Lecture, Independent, Group Discussion
CE registrants must complete all course completion requirements listed above, no partial credit can be issued.

If a learner is in need of their participant record from this course, send an email with the request to the AOTA CE Administrator at liza.kali@profectum.org

New York Licensed Master Social Workers & Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Profectum Foundation is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0413. This Master Class is approved for up to 7.5 contact hours. [ 7.5 contact hours ]  CE registrants must complete all course completion requirements listed above, no partial credit can be issued.

Continuing Education & Complaint Resolution Policy
Continuing Education Privacy Policy

CE Provider Name and Contact Information
Profectum Foundation
88 East Main Street, #514
Mendham, NJ 07945
Liza Kali
AOTA CE Administrator