Firefly Institute of Research and Education
Firefly Institute of Research and Education

Institute Faculty




Michelle Pliske, MSW LCSW RPT-S
Chief Executive Officer, Principle Investigator Firefly Institute

Faculty: Play Therapy Studies; Trauma Informed Care; Animal Assisted Human Health Programs

Michelle Pliske is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), the chief executive officer and clinical director for Firefly Counseling Services, P.C. and the director of operations at the Firefly Institute of Research and Education. Michelle is a board recognized supervisor for the Oregon Board of Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and Licensed Professional Counselors. She holds a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Washington, Department of Psychology, where she studied developmental psychology. She worked on multiple research studies as a post graduate at the University of Washington's Institute of Brain and Learning Sciences and Center on Human Development and Disability. Her research included: infant and child development, childhood trauma, child behavioral disorders and autism spectrum disorder.


Michelle received her graduate degree with honors from Portland State University, School of Social Work. Currently, Michelle is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and Social Policy working towards her doctorate of clinical social work practice with research focused on integrating yoga and play therapy to address childhood adverse life experiences. Michelle facilitates continuing education workshops for students and professionals seeking training and certification within play therapy practices through the firefly institute. 


Michelle holds certificates of education in Trauma Informed Services from Portland State University, Adoption and Foster Care from Portland State University, EMDR from the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Institute. Michelle holds a certificate of education in Play Therapy Practices with recognition as a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor (RPT-S) through The Association for Play Therapy. She also has received advanced training, education and certification in Synergetic Play Therapy through the Play Therapy Institute of Colorado. Michelle completed her post-graduate certificate degree in Animal Assisted Human Health from the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work and currently works in partnership with Apollo a therapy dog. Michelle is in the process of developing a clinical certification program for continuing education in animal assisted neurobiologically-informed play therapy practices (AANPT) through the Firefly Institute of Research and Education (FIRE). 


Michelle is also recognized as a certified children's yoga instructor through Imagination Yoga and co-developed a comprehensive children's play therapy yoga program 'Hope Stretches' which provides movement and mental health therapies for children. Michelle is in the process of developing a professional clinical certification program for continuing education in yoga play therapy practices and has recently finalized a contract to write a new book: "Integrating Yoga and Play Therapy: The Mind Body Approach for Healing Adverse Childhood Experiences" due to be released in July 2019. 


She is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), Association for Play Therapy (APT) and the National Association for Social Workers (NASW). Michelle is a board member for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Oregon as Vice President and is a previous board member for the Association for Play Therapy, Oregon with a sitting position focused on continuing education. Michelle served as an assistant professor of social work and the director of field studies at Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR.


Michelle focuses her clinical practice with individuals affected by abuse/trauma, anxiety, acute or chronic illness in the family and grief/bereavement. Michelle utilizes a prescriptive approach to mental health treatment, drawing from a variety of theoretical practices while incorporating current neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology to meet the unique needs of her clients.  Michelle provides frequent education and training to the public on topics related to child development, clinical applications, practices and interventions, child and adolescent mental health disorders, traumatic grief and loss and acute or chronic medical illness within the family system.

Lindsay Balboa, MSSW LCSW
Continuing Education Director, Firefly Institute

Faculty: Play Therapy Studies; Animal Assisted Human Health; Infant Toddler Mental Health Programs

Lindsay Balboa is a licensed clinical social worker through the Oregon State Board of Licensed Clinical Social Workers. She also is the continuing education director for the Firefly Institute of Research and Education. Lindsay received her bachelor's degree in human development and family sciences with a specialization in early childhood development from the University of Texas at Austin School of Human Ecology. Lindsay received her masters of science in social work from the University of Texas at Austin Graduate School of Social Work with advanced coursework in child development and play therapy practices. 


Lindsay works in partnership with Olive and received training and certification in animal assisted human health through the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Lindsay has received additional training and post-graduate certification in Adoption and Foster Care from Portland State University and Infant and Toddler Mental Health from Portland State University.


Lindsay is certified through Imagination Yoga as a child yoga instructor and she is a member of the Association for Play Therapy. Lindsay is co-writing a book "Integrating Yoga and Play Therapy: The Mind Body Approach for Healing Adverse Childhood Experiences" due to be released in July 2019. 


Lindsay currently serves as vice president for the Oregon Association for Play Therapy.


Lindsay's areas of specialty include issues affecting divorcing families, foster care or adoption, infant mental health, abuse & trauma, anxiety, depression or behavioral issues at school or at home. Lindsay has extensive experience working with families moving through the legal process of separation and divorce, foster care and family court or juvenile justice systems. Lindsay works collaboratively with parents and community partners to create treatment plans based on each individual or family's unique needs utilizing a prescriptive approach of directive and non-directive practices.

Sarah Long, MSW LCSW RYT-200

Faculty: Play Therapy Studies, Trauma Informed Care; Yoga Practices

Sarah Long is a licensed clinical social worker and certified child and adult yoga instructor. Sarah completed her Master’s degree in Social Work from Touro College in New York City and practiced social work in the New York area prior to relocating to Oregon. Sarah specializes in providing treatment to adults and children who have experienced inter-personal violence such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and childhood abuse.  She has specialized training from Safe Horizon in various trauma treatment models such as:  Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), Seeking Safety (for PTSD and addictions), Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency (ARC), Trauma Focused Psychotherapy, Synergetic Play Therapy and Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Stress (SPARCS).  In addition to her trauma work, Sarah also assists clients with navigating life transitions, parenting challenges, mood dysregulation (e.g. anxiety, depression, bipolar) and provides Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for adolescents experiencing mood disorders. Sarah utilizes her training in yoga and meditation to help clients develop mindfulness practices that are tailored to their unique needs.  Sarah is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and certified RY-200 yoga instructor with training in yoga for trauma, yoga for children, and yoga for at-risk adolescents. 

Lisa Aasheim, PhD, LPC, ACS

Faculty: Clinical Supervision in Mental Health Practice

Lisa Aasheim, Ph.D., LPC, ACS is an Associate Professor in the Counselor Education Department at Portland State University and served as the Director of the Community Counseling Clinic and School Counseling Program at PSU for over a decade. She is a renowned specialist in Clinical Supervision, and is the author of Practical Clinical Supervision for Counselors: An Experiential Guide (Springer Publishing).  She specializes in couples and family counseling, addictions counseling, and school counseling, and has written textbook chapters and articles on Clinical Supervision Models and Theories, Motivational Interviewing, Counselor Development, Ethics in the Work Settings, the Therapeutic Alliance, Family Counseling in the Schools, and Addictions in the School, Home, and Workplace.  She maintains a profound appreciation for the complexities and challenges that come with dedicating one’s professional life to helping others, and is grateful for the opportunity to support those who do this so well.

Rebekah Springs, LMFT

Faculty: Play Therapy Studies, Infant Toddler Mental Health

Rebekah Springs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with clinical experience specializing in working with children and families. She received her Master’s degree in clinical psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and her bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University.


Rebekah worked at the Real Connections Child Development Institute, where she specialized in parent support and education, play therapy and DIR therapy, a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to working with children, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other sensory processing differences.


Rebekah is currently working towards her certification as a Registered Play Therapist (RPT). Her practice is client-centered and incorporates the family as a whole. She loves providing play therapy which honors the child and family and deeply influenced by interpersonal neurobiology and current research on attachment theory and mind-body integration. Rebekah also takes great joy in working with parents and families as they confront new diagnoses or work through new challenges that come with each stage of development throughout the lifespan.


Rebekah is also receiving her post-graduate certification in infant-toddler mental health from Portland State University. She practices with young children and parents using evidenced based attachment and play therapy interventions. 


Rebekah’s areas of focus include infant mental health, parenting, parents of children with special needs, attachment, early childhood developmental differences, trauma, medical trauma, sensory processing disorders, anxiety and related diagnoses. Her passion is for uncovering the resources within each individual and family and providing a safe, open and attuned therapeutic relationship which can cultivate healing in the midst of challenges. 


Mark Barzda, JD

Faculty: Guest Speaker Legal and Ethical Issues

Mark R. Barzda is a Family Law Attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science, with Honors, from Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut, a Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School, 1997, and an LL.M., Environmental Law & Natural Resources, from Lewis & Clark College Northwestern School of Law.
Mark is a member of the Oregon State Bar as well as the Multnomah County Bar Association. His areas of practice include: divorce, child support and custody issues, grandparent rights and guardianship of minors, international and interstate custody, (including military divorce), and prenuptial agreements.

Firefly Institute

To find out more about the programs we offer, please call:                503-915-3737 -or- email:


You can also use our contact form for questions.

News & Events

New book to be released July 2019!   

"Integrating Yoga and Play Therapy: The Mind Body Approach for Healing Adverse Experiences" 

Authors: Michelle Pliske, LCSW RPT-S & Lindsay Balboa, MSSW LCSW


We are excited to be launching new continuing education programs in play therapy practices! The institute partners with Firefly Counseling Services, P.C. and all trainings include experiential work within the play therapy clinic and is approved for continuing education by the Association for Play Therapy.


Please see our continuing education program brochure for more information!

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