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Amy Nelson, LCSW, LSCSW, RPT-S


Coming to Our Senses: Utilizing Applied Sensory Strategies in Your Play Therapy Practice


As a keynote speaker, trainer, and children's book author, the self-proclaimed "Quirky Kid," Amy Nelson, is deeply passionate about promoting neurodiversity and inclusion. With firsthand experience as a neurodivergent professional and extensive expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor™, and Social Emotional Learning Coach and Consultant, Amy is dedicated to inspiring and motivating professionals to "LEAN IN," embracing sensory processing differences.


As the founder of Emotional Milestones, Amy helps professionals prioritize and optimize mental and behavioral support for young children through applied sensory strategies and play therapy techniques. Her engaging storytelling and dynamic teaching style blend theory and practice, making her a highly sought-after speaker at local, state, and national conferences.

Meet the Presenters!


Applehelen Kirby

Mind-Body Connection: Finding emotional balance through movement and energetic practices

Applehelen received her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from New Mexico State University with Minors in Integrated Behavioral Health and Dance Education in May 2020. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with experience working with pediatric and adult clients in inpatient, partial hospitalization, and college counseling settings. She likes working from a Narrative Therapy perspective which means she takes into consideration all factors that contribute to a client’s life story including culture, family, and personal experiences. She also incorporates various techniques from mindfulness, DBT, and CBT and I have special interests in expressive arts, dance movement, yoga, and play therapies. Prior to pursuing a career in counseling, she earned a BS in Microbiology and MS in Biology, minoring in Biochemistry and Dance from NMSU. She is excited to serve the community in which she grew up in incorporating all her passions to support my clients!


Ernesto Santistevan

Cannabis and Mental Health

Dr. Ernesto Santistevan received his PhD from Gallaudet University in 1996. He has been a licensed clinical psychologist for nearly 25 years and has been a prescribing psychologist for the last 5 years. He currently practices with iNetMedRx2 in Las Cruces, The Life Link in Santa Fe, and North Star Psychiatric Services in Los Alamos. He regularly volunteers services at The Transitional Living Program of The Mountain Center in Santa Fe. Dr. Santistevan lives in Santa Fe with his wife, daughter, 5 dogs, 2 horses and about 30,000 bees (only the people and dogs live indoors, the horses and bees are strict outdoor pets). He has a love of camping, hiking, and Dungeons and Dragons.


Jessica Cauthorne

Mind-Body Connection: Finding emotional balance through movement and energetic practices and Using AI in Therapy: Old School Meets New Technology

Jessica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Registered Play Therapist (RPT), and a Reiki Master with over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health. She is the Clinical Director of a A New Hope Therapy Center where she provides individual, couples, and family therapy to clients of all ages, supervises Master Level Clinicians, Interns and works to help each individual grow into the clinician that they are meant to be. Jessica is passionate about utilizing a holistic approach to treatment and including a deep mind and body awareness while working through mental health issues.


Kamini Verma


Using Play Therapy Skills to Engage Parents Using Cultural Competency

Let’s Get Creative! Developing Evidence-Based Tailored Interventions for the Play Room

Kamini Verma obtained her Master of Science in Social Work from the University Of Texas School Of Social Work in 2010. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a Social Work Board Approved Supervisor in Texas, and a Registered Play Therapist and Supervisor (RPT-S). She has 10+ years of experience working with children, adolescents and their families on topics related to healing from trauma and abuse, crisis intervention, creating home stability, adoption, grief and loss, mindfulness and questions of sexuality. She is Trust Based Relational Intervention ® Certified Educator and completed Level One of Theraplay training. Kamini has offered counseling to children ages 5-17 years in both individual and family sessions, utilizing a variety of treatment modalities, including play therapy, solution-focused therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. During the course of her professional care, Kamini has  worked as an advocate for children in the foster care system, a residential treatment center, a community health clinic, and private practice before most recently returning to her non-profit roots at a local counseling agency that serves all people and has a focus on military families.

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Maria Laquerre-Diego

D&D for Mental Health: A Beginner's Guide

A self-described geek, Maria Laquerre-Diego is a CEO and Owner who is committed to increasing access to mental health services and breaking down the stigma surrounding therapy services. In addition to supporting mental health providers, Maria takes an active role in addressing the continued stigma of mental health services through the use of pop culture – everything from movies and television shows to superheroes and Disney characters. Maria has spoken about mental health at several local events, has served as an officer on professional boards and has provided training to clinicians all over the country while maintaining her and her family’s roots as Aggies! Maria is always happy to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and mental health and can be contacted through her practice website


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Matthew Huycke

Rolling for Insight: NLP's Deep Dive into Tabletop Gaming and Mental Wellness

Matt is a current Ph.D. student in counseling psychology at NMSU. Holding a master's degree in counseling, they have hands-on experience working primarily in the realm of substance abuse and treatment courts. Matt has always been fascinated with issues of identity, community, and psychological wellbeing. Intrigued by the nuances of identity, community, and psychological wellbeing, Matt is eager to share both insightful theories and actionable strategies. His goal is to enrich our interactions with clients who game, whether it's within a therapeutic setting or beyond. Join us for a session that promises both depth and applicability.


MelindaJoy Pattison

Mandalas of the Great Round: Playing with Art Supplies

MelindaJoy Pattison is licensed in the state of New Mexico and has been in the private practice of Psychotherapy for 5 years. She is a native of New Mexico; having graduated with her Masters of Counseling from Southwestern College, in Santa Fe. She specializes in creating healthy relationships with clients using the principles of Interpersonal Neurobiology, Harm Reduction Therapy, Creative Arts (Mandala Making) and Somatic modalities, including Body Mind Centering, as appropriate. MelindaJoy has varied experience as a workshop presenter, speaker and teacher for over twenty years.


Zachary Dehler Egan

D&D for Mental Health: A Beginner's Guide and Using AI in Therapy: Old School Meets New Technology

Zac is a Licensed Master Social Worker with his graduate degree from Western New Mexico University. While there, his focus was on clinical social work and he received a certificate in school social work. Zac's passion in therapy is using unconventional interventions – such as video games, outdoor adventure therapy, horticulture therapy, tabletop role playing games (such as Dungeons & Dragons), and board games – alongside conventional intervention techniques. Zac currently holds a certificate in mindfulness therapy and is working on certifications in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Zac may be a “padawan” therapist, but he has been active in local communities since high school, starting with independent community organizing and eventually founding a local non-profit. The populations that he has the most experience working with are preteens, teenagers, and adults in both group and individual settings. Zac aims to provide a holistic and humanistic service to his clients utilizing an integrative therapeutic approach.

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