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A conversation with Dr. Dan Hughes, Ph.D & Sarah Sawyer, MA, OTR/L
moderated by Erin Flynn, MS, OTR/L

Originally recorded May 2022.

Description: Attachment (the affectionate relationship that binds a child to a parent or caregiver) and sensory processing (the ability to take in information from our worlds and stay regulated and able to perform our daily activities) are critical for building a foundation for subsequent emotional development in children. Using this framework, Jane Koomar, Ph.D, OTR/L, FAOTA, founder of the SPIRAL Foundation and clinical psychologist Daniel Hughes, Ph.D. worked together to increase awareness of the importance of these dynamics in early childhood. Together, Jane and Dan developed “SAFE PLACE.” Within this model is the PACE module which aids in the ability to develop strong interconnected relationships as the basis for all other parts of development through Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. Dan Hughes and Sarah Sawyer, president of SPIRAL Foundation and Clinical Director at OTA The Koomar Center, will join us for a discussion on how therapists and families can use the therapeutic PACE approach to help their clients and children through traumatic times. We will also have Dan give his perspective on how to talk to our clients and children about stressful events.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the 2022 LiveTalk Series participants will be able to:

  1. Identify how to increase mental health knowledge for occupational therapy professionals across settings
  2. Recognize relationship and developmental based mental health models that compliment Sensory Integration intervention
  3. Select intervention modalities and models that support mental health while utilizing Sensory Integration principles

By the end of this discussion, part 5 of 10 in the 2022 LiveTalk Series,  participants will be able to:

  1. Understand the Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy model
  2. Apply Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy in interactions with clients and families
  3. Identify strategies to discuss stressful topics with children

About the Speakers: Dan Hughes, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist with a limited practice in South Portland, Maine. He founded and developed Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), the treatment of children who have experienced abuse and neglect and who demonstrate ongoing problems related to attachment and trauma. This treatment occurs in a family setting and the treatment model has expanded to become a general model of family treatment. He has spent over 40 years helping children and youth reach their full potential and reconnect with others in their lives. He is engaged in extensive training and supervision in the certification of therapists in his treatment model, along with ongoing consultation to various agencies and professionals. He is a member of the American Psychological Association. He is also president of the Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy Institute (DDPI) which is responsible for the certification of professionals in DDP. Dan has authored many books including Attachment-Focused Parenting (2009), Attachment-Focused Family Therapy Workbook (2011) and, with Jon Baylin, Brain-Based Parenting (2012) and The Neurobiology of Attachment-Focused Therapy (2016).

Sarah Sawyer, MA, OTR/L is the Clinical Director at OTA The Koomar Center and president of the board of the SPIRAL Foundation. Sarah has extensive experience working with individuals with SPD and their families. She has a particular interest in working with and supporting the families of neurodiverse individuals. Sarah is also passionate in supporting individuals and families that have experienced trauma and has collaborated with a number of colleagues to support the development of the role of OT in mental health and specifically the intersection of sensory processing, trauma and attachment. Sarah regularly shares her experiences through mentoring and presentations to educational facilities and other professionals broadening understanding of sensory processing and sensory integration therapy.

Disclosure: Dr. Hughes and Ms. Sawyer have no financial relationships to disclose.

Course Level: Introductory

Audience: OT/ OTA, PT /PTA, SLP, psychologists, educators, parents

AOTA Areas: Occupational Therapy Service Delivery: Evaluation, Intervention and Outcomes. Foundational Knowledge: Social Determinants of Health

Contact Hours: This conversation is worth 1 contact hour or 0.1 AOTA CEUs. The full series has been approved for 10 contact hours or 1.0 AOTA CEUs.

Completion Requirements: To receive contact hours for this course you must listen to the discussion in its entirety and complete the accompanying assessment.

ADA/Section 504: If you require special accommodations, please contact the Spiral Foundation at or (617) 969-4410 ext. 267

Continuing Education: Occupational Therapy Practitioners/ Occupational Therapy Assistants: Foundation is an Approved Provider of Continuing Education for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants by the American Occupational Therapy Association. The assignment of AOTA CEUs does not imply endorsement of specific course content, products, or clinical procedures by AOTA.

The Spiral Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and as such your donation is tax deductible.