It’s time again for our annual Women’s Healing Journey Retreat at the Rex Ranch in Amado Arizona. Join us for a weekend of spiritual renewal and heartfelt rejuvenation through ritual, ceremony, storytelling and myth. Register now for this life-changing experience. www.turtleislandproject.com


May 15th the adventure began. Joy Rigberg (joy@consciousjoycoaching) and I were off to Marrakech Morocco to teach at the 2010 International Play Therapy World Congress. www.playtherapy.org.uk/.   After boarding British Airlines in Phoenix, we landed in London, transferred to Royal Air Morac and took off for Marrakech, landing in Casablanca first, with instructions to stay on the plane and continue on. That didn’t happen. The flight was cancelled and ten hours later we arrived by bus in Marrakesh. In good humor, I kept saying that I knew this was an adventure.  As the metaphor queen, I knew there was a story in all of this somewhere.

With little sleep I went to the Palais des Congress where the World Congress was being held.   I was greeted by Monika Jepkott, President of Play Therapy International (PTI) with a gift of a Moroccan drum and warm hugs. I told her I was surprised to see such a low participant count, knowing that distinguished presenters were coming from all over the world.   I knew she’d tell me when the time was right. That night was a Gala dinner with music and the finest of food and joyful celebration.  

After the Gala I learned more. It seems Monika and PTI were promised support from such agencies as UNICEF and Play Therapy Africa. But something went wrong and these groups did not follow through with their initial commitment. Monika had been hoping to bring healing and educational support through Play Therapy to the children in Ethiopia. She had traveled with her husband Jeff to far reaching regions, witnessing what was called “Child Friendly” schools and programs, only to see for herself they were anything but. Monika cried as she recounted what she saw. Joy and I listened with rapt attention to what she thought she’d find and to what she actually found.   I’ve known Monika and Jeff since 1999 and only knew them and their work to be dedicated to training professionals who work with children through Play Therapy world-wide.   Joy and I felt compelled to share a bit of this story in some way. Others would be able to find out more if they so desired.

My workshop began on Wednesday, May 19th titled “Inspiring Children to Soar: Planting the Seeds and Reaping the Harvest.”  On Thursday Joy taught my model of StoryPlay in the Classroom, which she had been studying and brilliantly implementing as an Educational Coach for two years.  May 20th-24th I taught a four-day intensive titled “StoryPlay for Developing Emotinal Literacy with Children.”  In the evenings, we headed out for the Medina, a marketplace filled with snake charmers, monkeys, shops, food, music, and crafts. We played, bargained, and laughed.

One of the Story-Crafts we use in our training is what I call “Creating Your Pathway to Success Map.” In it participants are asked to create their goal, obstacles, and resources to overcome obstacles and reach success. As I think about it, from the beginning, this trip was what I call a “Living Metaphor,” showing  that in life we make plans to reach a particular destination. But as it is in all of life, they are just plans. Along the way we encounter obstacles in one form or another.  However, success comes from harnessing our inner resources with the determination of our spirit to overcome the obstacles and reach our destination.

Don’t miss this once a year opportunity to learn how to create personal ceremonies that will intensify your power to heal yourself and others. Early registration discount available through the end of this week to attend the CREATING HEALING CEREMONIES workshop in Phoenix May 21-23, 2010


  • Carl Hammerschlag MD, transcultural psychiatrist, storyteller, healer.
  • Mona Polacca, Hopi/Tewa/Havasupai spiritual leader, healer, and one of the 13 International Indigenous Grandmothers. www
  • Claudia Weinspach, Diplo.Psy., improvisational therapist and healer, from Munster, Germany.


  • Franciscan Renewal Center, Phoenix Arizona, May 21-23, 2010

Attendance is limited, register early.


Photographer Mary Ann Halpin gathered 40 extraordinary women
entrepreneurs to create the book, Fearless Women, Fearless Wisdom to be
released in June, 2010. I am so honored to be one of two co-editors
along with artist Gail Speckmann (www.gailspeckmann.com.) The portraits
and stories of these courageous women have transformed their
life-challenges into life-triumphs. (for more see:

Peggy Kinst is one of the amazing women in this book. Peggy shared the heart-doors that have already been opened. Mary Ann’s vision is global: she shares: Dedicated to contribution in the world, each woman in this book will use the opportunity as a vehicle to raise awareness and fundraiser for each of our causes and charities. Peggy is already doing just that

Peggy’s story:
“I feel so blessed as the doors keep opening in my quest to make my
“cause” known! I feel so sure that helping educate people about the
disease Ulcerative Colitis (UC), the surgical options available and the
support organizations like the Quality of Life Assn and the Crohn’s &
Colitis Foundation of America that I will be fundraising for and giving
proceeds to from my book sales, will “pay back” and “pay forward” the
honor I have to still be on this earth. There are so many I would like
to thank and show my gratitude to for saving my life and keeping me
from getting Cancer. This feels right and good!  The fact that we may
be able to share this fearless movement that Mary Ann Halpin has
created in the Fearless Women book and, through others help thousands
more, would be a dream come true. I only know that, in my heart, this
was where my life path was leading from the very beginning…and, Mary
Ann, you were my messenger and guide and persuader. Sometimes
blessings present themselves in mysterious ways. The book, Fearless
Women, Fearless Wisdom is a blessing ….Thank you, Mary Ann, for
helping us help others!

I have been sending emails to others asking directly to help me like
the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation…they have heard and responded with
joy and love! What an incredible experience. The verbiage I am using
is this….

Can you help us? I will be featured in a book by Mary Ann Halpin,
photographer, with 40 other fearless women, four from the Chicago
area…the book is called Fearless Women, Fearless Wisdom. It is a
pictorial that relates out stories…our “causes” to help women (all
people) become fearless in moving forward with courage even in the face
of challenges…to live our dreams! As a person who has a 42 year
experience with UC, my “cause” is to become a spokeswoman for
Ulcerative Colitis and donate to the Quality of Life Assn and the
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation to help people understand the disease and,
for those that have the disease, to understand their options. The book
will be released nationally in June. I would appreciate any advice or
help you can give us…media, contacts, ideas..! Thank you. Blessings
come in mysterious ways! Help me live my dream of helping others!

The responses have been overwhelming!”

Sunny Regards, Peggy Kinst
MBTI Seminars, Emotional Matrix
Fearless Women, Fearless Wisdom Book

Gems of Change

By Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D.

“Gems of Change” was first published in Spa Magazine January/February, 2001. At that time I was living on the lush Garden Island of Kaua’i Hawaii with my husband.  We are now living in Phoenix, Arizona enjoying the splendor of the ever-changing desert.

Recently, while opening small decorative boxes of trinkets, I came upon the many pieces of sea glass I gathered when I was living on the island so many years ago. As I was handling each of the colorful pieces, once broken and discarded, I thought about the many life challenges so many of us face today.  It was then I remembered this story and realized it was time to share it once again. It is my hope that Gems of Change will bring comfort to your lives in many special ways.

The Story…

Since moving to the island of Kaua’i some eight years ago, after twenty-seven years of living in fast-paced Los Angeles, my life has been in a state of total flux. Rather than the peaceful, simple life-style my husband and I sought, we were greeted with Hurricane Iniki, the worst natural disaster to hit the Hawaiian Islands, just ten days after our arrival.

We thought we were moving to paradise, but instead found the move to be fraught with continuous challenge. Over the years I felt like our goal for a peaceful life-style was being shattered into chards of broken dreams. Every time it appeared as if bits and pieces of my life were coming together, something would happen to squash the opportunities from coming to fruition.

A few months after the hurricane I decided to visit our local neighborhood center. While sitting at a picnic table, one of the Hawaiian elders opened a large jar of what appeared to be multi-colored jewels and emptied the contents into a round basket that was on the table before us.

Sea Glass

Sea Glass

Upon closer look, these jewels were really tumbled pieces of broken glass. I became curious and asked her about them. Aunty Martha told me about a beach on the Westside of the island known as “Glass Beach.” She said that rather than soft golden sand, the beach is covered with what looks like tiny pieces of glittering jewels. However, these jewels are really fragments of broken glass that were once parts from various types of bottles, which were discarded out at sea.

Over time, these jagged fragments are washed onto the shore and transformed by nature into colorful gems. These gems are often used to create jewelry, picture frames, flowerpots, sun catchers, and ornaments of various kinds. Aunty Martha then handed me a piece of glass and told me to put it in a special place.

I did as Aunty Martha told me to do and placed it on a shelf next to pictures of my friends and family, all the while thinking someday I’d like to visit that beach.

That “someday” didn’t happen until about a year later, when I noticed that I was still feeling jagged and fragmented in my own life. I had no regular job, finances were dwindling rapidly, and I missed my friends and family very much. It was then that I decided to take some private time for myself and visit this beach. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas as to what I might learn. I just knew that I needed to be there.

With gentle shore-line waves lapping over my bare feet, I walked along the water’s edge, noticing pebble-size pieces of glass glistening like fine jewels in colors of turquoise, emerald, brown, crimson, and orange.

As I walked further, I notice larger, thumb-size pieces of the glass and decided to collect some of them. After an hour or so, the plastic bag I had brought with me was filled with these gems.

Wanting to survey my treasures, I found a cove, and emptied my sack of glass onto a large beach towel. I picked up piece after piece, noticing each shape and color. One particular piece of smooth, frosted white glass caught my attention. I decided to use this piece of glass as one would use a reference book to find answers to a puzzling question. Holding it in the palm of my hand, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and mentally asked it to teach me something I needed to know right now in my life. I turned it over and over in my hand, while waiting for an answer to surface.

In these few moments of quiet meditation, I realized that our dreams, goals, and visions begin whole and smooth like the glass that was once part of a bottle or a jar. However, sometimes we find ourselves in uncharted waters; perhaps feeling like we were tossed overboard. There may be rough seas, high winds, and unclear navigation. This lack of clarity and turmoil can leave us feeling broken and shattered. With time, the edges of uncertainty smooth out, and we can find a safe place on which to land and gleam.

With these thoughts in mind, I began to think about the many challenges and traumas that have jarred my life over the years prior to our move. I remembered how, at first, these difficulties felt like they would break me apart. However; upon inner reflection, I now know that each experience has helped to smooth my rough edges and helped me to look at my life with greater dimension.

The sun was beginning to set as I bundled the many gems in the towel. Once I was home, I placed them in a large, clear glass jar and tumbled them over and over again. Each time I turned the jar, I saw a new design emerge.

As I look at that jar today, I realize that those once broken chards have become the vibrant colors in a personal kaleidoscope called my Life.

A Kaliedoscope Life

A Kaliedoscope Life

Take a few moments to reflect on your own life, and share with us what you may use to bring beauty to the chaos and confusion you may sometimes be called upon to endure.


Dr. Joyce

Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D. LMFT LLC
Creative Solutions for Positive Change
Registered Play Therapy Supervisor
Co-director of The Phoenix Institute of Ericksonian Therapy

“Go to your fields and your gardens,

and you shall learn

that it is the pleasure of the bee

to gather honey of the flower,

But it is also the pleasure of the flower

to yield its honey to the bee.”   ~Kahlil Gibran


Each morning I slowly meander into the kitchen and fix my wake-me-up cup of coffee.  

Mmmm, the smell of freshly brewing coffee fills the air as I watch, somewhat impatiently, as the rich, dark liquid begins to drip through the filter into the glass pot.  I then pour that first cup and sip slowly, enjoying the rich taste as it goes down.    For me, it is a cup of pure wake-up joy.   As I think about it, wouldn’t it be nice to begin and end each day sipping from a cup filled with joy?    Perhaps it could lead to another kind of wake-up feeling.       

A Cup of Joy

A Cup of Joy

How many times do we rush through our day not even thinking about the gifts we may have received that day. . . gifts that fill our inner cup of joy?  Perhaps it was a smile from the supermarket check out person, or a hug from your child.  Maybe it was a kind note from a colleague at work letting you know that you did a good job on a project or, perhaps you received a phone call from a friend or relative you hadn’t heard from for some time just saying that he or she had been thinking about you and just had to call. Most of the time these simple gifts go unnoticed and we remain focused on what’s not going well. 

This Steppingstone is meant to remind you to reach for your cup of joy each day and to decide what is in it or what you want to fill it with.   Find a quiet place, take a deep breath, and ask yourself the following questions.  The answers may come to you in the form of thoughts or images.   Grab a sheet of paper or your favorite journal… write down the questions below and allow your heart to respond.


  • What gives me joy in my life?

  • With whom do I feel full, respected, joyful?    

  • What would I like to be doing in my life that I am not doing?   In other words, what joy am I postponing? 

  • Next, look at the answers to these questions and ask yourself:  “What am I willing to do that will bring joy into my life today?”  

  • The next step is simple . . . Just do it!


Dr. Joyce

Joyce C. Mills PhD, LMFT, LLC
6609 N. Scottsdale Rd. Bldg. G-103
Scottsdale, AZ 85250

© 1999 All Right Reserved ~ Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D.
Reconnecting to the Magic of Life

Creating a Peace Garden

Since the tragedy that struck America on September 11th, I have received countless calls and e-mails from therapists, teachers, and parents around the country asking what they can do to help their children at this time of sadness, fear, and uncertainty. During one such conversation, a friend said that her ten year-old son felt fear most of the time and didn’t know what to do.  After a few days of contemplation and meditation, I had a dream in which children were creating a “Peace Garden.” Upon awakening I decided to nurture the message of this dream. Gardens are powerful metaphors for our lives. We decide what we want to plant and nurture, as well as what we want to trim back or remove altogether.

After tearfully watching the Day of Prayer televised on September 23rd, I took some quiet time to reflect on what I was feeling. During these reflective moments, the faces and voices of the children of Harlem singing the African American National Anthem, “We Shall Overcome” continued to stream through my mind. Shortly afterwards a ritual for creating a “Peace Garden” became clear. It is my hope that the creation of a Peace Garden becomes a foundation of every home and school, and that the seeds of a peaceful resolution germinate, blossom, and flower for our children and our planet.

Creating a Peace Garden

Creating a Peace Garden

The following ideas for creating a Peace Garden are shared from my heart to yours.

Materials needed:

Rocks of various sizes, acrylic paints, brushes. Optional are plants, flowers, or a tree.


Walk out into your yard or garden with your child. Let your child choose the area he or she feels would be the right place for the Peace Garden. This does not have to be a large area.

If you live in an apartment, or have very limited space, use a small planter box to house your Peace Garden. It is not the size of the space that is important; the importance is on the intention.

Time of Day:

The time of day you choose to create your Peace Garden is optional according to your personal family schedule.


Once chosen, create an open space, clearing away any brush or obstacles that may be in the way. While doing so, ask your child to picture clearing away any worries or fears he or she may be experiencing. Take your time in this part of the process. Giving voice and action to inner feelings is a way of honoring our humanity and connectedness.

Planting Peace:

Gather rocks of various sizes and put them in a pile near the area you and your child have just cleared. Next, you and your child choose a rock, hold it in your hands and meditate for a few quiet moments on the word, message, prayer, or picture you want to paint on it. When you and your child are finished painting the rock, place it anywhere in the Peace Garden area.

You may wish to plant a tree, shrub or flowers in the garden also, but it is not necessary.

If your child is having a friend or friends over for a play day, invite them to participate in the creation and perpetuation of the Peace Garden. They can be asked to bring a rock of their own, or use one that you have provided.

Spiritual Pollination:

Like the tiny particles of pollen carried on the wings of butterflies from one flower to the next with the sole purpose of perpetuating regeneration and life, it is my belief that our prayers, messages, and images are transformed into tiny particles of “spiritual pollen,” carried on the wings of angels with the soul purpose of perpetuating healing and peace.JOYM Create a Peace Garden 2

At this time of great challenge and uncertainty we must remember
“Fear is the messenger, Faith is the Message.”

Shared with blessings for peace…

Dr. Joyce

Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D. LMFT LLC
Creative Solutions for Positive Change
Registered Play Therapy Supervisor
Co-director of The Phoenix Institute of Ericksonian Therapy

Sole Survivors

~ Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D.

It was a rainy Saturday morning when I finished unpacking from a recent business trip. After jiggling open the sliding door to my closet, I desperately tried to find space for a new pair of shoes I had purchased.

No such luck. Every time I moved one dusty old box, another fell down.

“This is it!” I huffed out loud. “This is the day I give away all of my old shoes.”

The shoes I’m talking about were not just tattered–many of them no longer fit. Why was I saving them? I got my step stool and up into the nether regions of closet land I went.

Sole Survivors

Sole Survivors

The first box contained a pair of black satin high heels. They were my favorites eight years ago when they were new. I remember wearing them the night I attended a grand performance of Swan Lake by the Joffrey Ballet. My friends and I were able to go backstage and meet the dancers.

The next box held the silver-mesh heels with beaded flowers delicately draped across the front that I first wore to our youngest son’s bar mitzvah 12 years ago. As I closed my eyes, I could still hear his 13-year-old changing voice chanting.

Less glamorous were my workout shoes, all tattered and torn, but reminding me of exuberant aerobics classes at the gym. Each pair of shoes was like an old photo album carrying vivid pictures of treasured moments.

In 1992, when I moved from Los Angeles to Kaua’i, Hawaii, I brought all my shoes, knowing full well that many didn’t fit anymore (my feet seem to get wider with age). At the time, I didn’t know why I was taking them, but sitting on the edge of my bed, holding my black satin heels, I knew … I didn’t want to let go of the memories of parties, weddings, vacations,  and anniversaries.

I’d worn these shoes during some of the best years of my life. They were with me when, against the odds, I went back to school, got a Ph.D., wrote books, and built a private practice as a marriage, family and child counselor. It wasn’t just the accomplishments that were important. It was all the wonderful people who enriched each experience. By holding on to the shoes, I’d been trying to hold on to the memories. Even though moving to Kaua’i was a goal my husband and I worked hard to achieve, it seemed I was still spiritually linked to my 27 years in Los Angeles.

I took time to carefully dust off each pair of shoes and put them in a white plastic giveaway bag beside me. After placing the last pair inside, I twisted a wire tie around the top and reflected upon the importance of creating space in my life.

I realized that letting go of what no longer fits allows for experiences — and shoes — that fit the person I’ve become. While the memories continue to nourish my journey, now my closet has room for new shoes to travel with me on the path ahead.


It has been twelve years since I wrote this story.  Sole Survivors was subsequently published in Living Fit Magazine, in the July issue in 1997.  I am now living in Phoenix, Arizona and still reflect on the messages I received from cleaning my closet on that fateful Saturday morning.

After reading this story, perhaps you will also take time to reflect on the importance of letting go of what no longer fits and creating space in your life for new pathways and discoveries yet to be discovered.  I welcome your thoughts and share the journey.


First published in Shape Magazine, 1997.
All Rights Reserved – Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D. LMFT, LLC 2009
Dr. Joyce C. Mills
Creative Solutions for Positive Change
Registered Play Therapy Supervisor
Co-director of The Phoenix Institute of Ericksonian Therapy

An Angel In the Mist

An Angel In the Mist

An Angel in the Mist

In honor of 9/11, I am re-posting this story so that we might remember and keep alive in our hearts those who so courageously gave their time, love and lives for us.

~ Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D.

Have you ever met someone that changed your life in a split second? Meeting Tim, a Fireman (one of Brooklyn’s finest), provided such an experience for me.

It was early evening on Sunday, January 6th, when I first saw Tim. I had been hired as a consultant and program developer on a special project with a team of trauma experts designed to help the children and families that were affected by the tragedy of 9/11.  My contribution to the team was based on a three part healing project I created nine years earlier for the children and families on the remote west side of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i in response to the devastating experience of Hurricane Iniki. Ironically, the hurricane hit the island on September 11, 1992.  Rather than the typical forms of debriefing, the program was based on natural healing abilities and resilience.

After nonstop days and sleep-deprived nights of eating Dunkin’ Donuts, drinking coffee, and taking “Emer’gen-C” vitamins – while developing, redeveloping, and refining this special program – I knew that I had to go to Ground Zero to meditate and pray. There would be no way I could work with the families and children without visiting and paying my respects prior to our first meeting.  And so, on January 6th, my dear friend and colleague, CharlesEtta (Charlee) Sutton and I bundled up and drove into New York from New Jersey – to the site of Ground Zero.

As we drove, Charlee and I talked about our feelings of sadness coupled with fears related to what we were expecting to see or feel. When we arrived, the lines of people waiting to go onto the platform set up to view the actual site were endless. One police officer told us that the wait to walk onto the platform was over three hours. Knowing we were unable to wait that long, we decided to walk on the sidewalk around the site and pay respects in another way. I had brought a braid of sweetgrass with me, which is a Native American sacred herb used for healing and prayer.

Tears filled our eyes as we silently walked by the thousands of letters, cards, pictures, posters, candles, flowers, teddy bears, and religious articles that were left by people from all over the world.  Many people obviously had visited to pay their respects and offer prayers to those thousands of innocent relatives and friends, whose precious lives had been so senselessly and tragically taken in a violent act of terrorism. For some reason, I could not seem to find the area where I wanted to place the sweetgrass.

It was getting darker, when Charlee and I decided to walk down Church Street and offer prayers by a barricade which blocked one of the entrances to the site. Just as we got there, Charlee got paged and had to answer an important call. Because of the noise coming from the huge cranes still working at the site, Charlee moved away to make her call, while I remained standing by the barricade to wait for her.  I found myself just gazing at the on-going work that was ensuing through the curtain of dusky light. It was during this very quiet and private moment, that I saw “him.” Like an angel in the mists, a tall, dust-cloaked firefighter in full gear slowly lumbered his way across the fallen debris towards the opening in the barricade.

As he approached, I wondered if it would be appropriate to talk with him at this time. He looked so tired and worn from his daunting task. As he turned to leave the site, I saw his name written on the back of his jacket. Reflexively, and almost in a whisper, I exhaled his name.  He immediately turned and slowly walked towards me. I extended my hand and introduced myself.  “Good evening, my name is Joyce Mills, and I am very happy to meet you.” I then reassured him that I wouldn’t take up much of his time, because I knew he was probably exhausted and wanted to get home. With a warm smile and an Irish-twinkle in his blue-grey eyes, he took off his work-worn, dust covered glove and extended his right hand.   “Tim,” he said.

It was then that I knew why I had brought the sweetgrass and to whom it was to be given. Reaching inside my purse, I took out the braid and told Tim that I had brought it from Phoenix to be offered in prayer for all of those who had been lost in the attack and in honor of those who were working so hard to help. I told him that we were not able to get onto the platform, but that I now knew why… it was because I was to give the sweetgrass to him.  While still holding it, I explained that sweetgrass is considered to be a sacred healing herb by many Native American tribes – that it was braided together as mind, body, and spirit.  I suggested that he should use it to help himself, his family, and his buddies through these many challenging times. He asked if I was Native American, and I told him no, that I am a Jewish kid born in the Bronx, but that I am a spiritual relative to many Native American People for many years and now live in Phoenix.

Tim smiled and extended his hands, palms up, to receive the small gift.  He gently handled the braid, almost as if one would hold a newborn baby for the first time.  Tim asked more questions about how to use it. I told him that I have been taught by Native people to use it to bring a sense of sweetness into life.  It is also used to purify a place when something painful happens. I went on to say that there are many places he could use the sweet grass – such as in his fire truck, at the fire station, in his own car, truck, or home. I explained that he could keep it the way it is, or burn it from time to time. The sweet smell could help remind him of the sweetness in life even when there is tragedy.  Tim said that he would definitely use it and thanked me for bringing it so far. I told him that it is he who needed to be thanked for all of the work he was doing.

Tim then started talking about his buddies who died and the many others who were killed. Tim’s eyes were soft and tender as he shared his story; he was clearly not in a hurry to leave. Tim said that firefighters usually “get in and get out of a site rather quickly, but this was different.” With conviction in his voice, Tim said that he and his buddies were not leaving until every bit of debris was cleared. He said there were over 3,000 bodies including 125 firefighters, somewhere in there, and that he was going to do what he could to recover whatever or whomever possible.

Tim talked for some time, while I stood and listened. I knew that meeting Tim was the reason I was there. He was the human platform from which I could view the site and offer prayers.  While just one person with great humility, Tim embodied the strength, sensitivity, fortitude, and courage of every person who was working to help.

As I write this story, I question what is it that Tim came to teach me that night? Perhaps it was about finding the inner strength and courage to go on when life strikes the most challenging of blows. For each of us the challenges will be different. For some it will be the loss of a loved one, for others it may be the loss of a job, or a personal confrontation with illness. We must each search our hearts in the quest for healing. Like Tim, it is in the service of a greater whole that we find the inner strength and meaning to face the fears and find healing.

As I leave you with this story, I also want to encourage you to take it into your heart and ask yourself how it impacted you.  Did it remind you of someone who forever changed your life?  Did you get a renewed sense of courage yourself?  Did it cause you to consider searching you own heart in the quest for healing?  Or did you, perhaps, find a personal revelation about your purpose in the service of helping others to heal?

Be inspired!

Dr. Joyce

Dr. Joyce C. Mills
Creative Solutions for Positive Change
Registered Play Therapy Supervisor
Co-director of The Phoenix Institute of Ericksonian Therapy

The Importance of Play in a Down Economy

By Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

~ Plato.

We can hardly open our computers, read a newspaper, or watch the news without hearing about the “down economy.” We work harder, attend more meetings, seminars, and workshops that are supposed to give us the keys for turning our businesses around, and read as many inspirational books as possible, but somehow that magical “law of attraction,” isn’t creating the magnetic success we hope for.

As a Play Therapist and Creative Coach for over thirty years, one ingredient I see missing in these meetings and workshops is the profound importance of play…to experience life with a playful mind.  Without it we only think in concrete terms.  We all know that concrete is fixed not fluid – and we need flow in order for new ideas to develop. 

In a groundbreaking book, “PLAY: How it shapes the brain, Opens the imagination, and Invigorates the soul,” Dr. Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughn, writes “For us, play lies at the core of creativity and innovation.” They go on to write “If we don’t take time to play, we face a joyless life of rigidity, lacking in creativity. The opposite of play isn’t work, but depression. If we’re going to adapt to changing economic and personal circumstances the way that nature armed us to do, then we have to find ourselves having some play time virtually every day.”

Related to this statement, Dr. Brown continues to share, citing a clear example when Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) built robotic probes to explore solar systems when they noticed they were having a hard time replacing the retiring engineers and scientists who had put men on the moon The company thought it was hiring graduates from the top schools such as MIT, Stanford, and even Cal Tech, but found something else was missing. These young grads simply could not problem solve like the elder engineers who came before them. What was the missing ingredient? You guessed it…play. The older engineers grew up taking things apart, seeing how they worked, making soapbox racers, and playing with their hands. Following this revelation, JPL included questions related to youthful play as a standard part of its job interviews.

Looking to other areas of business, we clearly see the indisputable success of Google.  It has whole floors with games and play stations, and other forms of fun, socialization, and relaxation. Why? If time is money, why would a company invest so much space and finances in providing employees with “fun stations?” The answer is simple…it makes you feel good!  In a nutshell, when we feel good, we are more productive, resourceful, creative, inventive, happier, and less stressed. 

Play Stations

Play Stations 


I carry this same belief throughout my personal life and business. If you look at the photos of my office on my website www.drjoycemills.com or click on the link taking you to StoryPlay®  – you’ll see fun stations everywhere. 

Play creates a joyful environment in which compassion, collaboration, and innovation can flourish.  While play is not the only element we need to turn things around, my belief is when we can all “play together,”  and when we open that playful nature within ourselves, we will find the innovative solutions needed for transforming down to up.

So, here’s my prescription for putting Play into your personal and professional life:

  1. Be silly – blow bubbles every day. Go out and buy bottles of bubbles and give yourself a few minutes of bubble blowing time each day. If you have employees, surprise them with a bottle of bubbles on their desk.
  2. Be creative – keep a small container of colorful Play-Doh® nearby and create a shape with it. Maybe by playing with Play-Doh, we’ll find ideas to create more “play dough.”
  3. Be artistic – when you are looking for solutions to a problem.  Use crayons, markers, and blank paper to draw, scribble, or doodle shapes, designs or images.
  4. Be balanced by taking a break.  Take time each day to play catch with your kids, friends, or employees.
  5. Be inspired where you have coffee or take lunch breaks.  Create “fun stations” with games, music, and art materials for employees to use.
  6. Be imaginative and inspired by telling stories. Problems and resolutions take on a different energy when they become part of a story. 

Articles jam packed with information to explore about the Play and the Workplace can be found by going to Linda Naiman’s creative blog:


Joy and the Dragon

Joy and the Dragon

I invite you to share your play ideas. How do you play? As Plato so wisely instructs… “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” How would you have people recognize your “play factor?”



You are invited to bring more Creativity into your life and business at “Creative Leaps.”

Joyce C. Mills