National Play Therapy Awareness Week

It was a fun week helping others understand the important work that we do. Also had a contest with the winner receiving a box set of the Core Attachment Therapy© publications.

To conclude this week, I thought I would share an article I wrote which is also posted on the website.

What Is Play Therapy?

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark” -Chinese Proverb

This mark is what gets played out in play therapy. If the marks on beautiful marks, marks that enhance the growth and development of a child, then play remains just play. However, if the marks on not beautiful and actually leave scars, then the play becomes therapy. A child’s play is his/her natural and symbolic language to show the world the scars that have been left behind. These scars effect the child’s growth, development and overall well being. If the marks are beautiful marks, then the child’s toy of a kitchen set becomes a place of nurturance. If the marks are scars, then this same toy becomes the symbolic place where dishes get thrown, food is withheld and heads get placed in the oven. If these marks are beautiful, then the child’s toy of a baby doll gets taken care of, goes off on visits and experiences others adventures. If these marks are scars, then this toy gets tossed across the room, has food shoved in its face and gets yelled at. If these marks are beautiful marks, then the child’s toy of guns gets used to protect stuffed animals from monsters. If the marks are scars, then this toy is used to defeat all that is good.

So, play therapy is not about play. Rather it is about using a language that the child is most comfortable using and putting this language to work. This work turns these scars into beautiful marks. The transformation of scars is the process of play therapy. It all begins with the therapeutic relationship between the child and therapist. Before any of the work can be done, the therapist has to convey to the child that s/he is held in high regard. This relationship then becomes the foundation for turning the scars into beautiful marks. 

As the child begins to experience emotional nurturance, s/he then feels safe enough to release the issues that never felt safe anywhere. This is where the work of play therapy begins. This work is very intense where the child is engaged in thematic play from the moment s/he walks in the office until the time s/he leaves. As the child exposes the scars, s/he takes the emotional risk of allowing it to heal. When taking this risk, the child, in this therapeutic relationship, will then open him/herself up to be taken care of. As the child experiences being nurtured, the walls come down, more scars get revealed and more healing occurs. This process can take anywhere from several sessions to several years, all depending are how deep the scars run and on how quickly the child views the therapist as a partner in this work of play. Eventually play becomes play and the kitchen set is for cooking for one another, the baby doll goes out for walks to the park and the guns are used for protection, if used at all. So the child’s natural language of play, used as therapy, allows the child to turn the scars into his/her tapestry of life.

Dorothy Derapelian, M.Ed., LCMHC 12/31/03


Turning Towards

The important task for the Phase 1 games in Core Attachment Therapy© is to help the child learn a new way of being with parents who are emotionally available. Children who have had attachment disruption have this message downloaded in their CNS that parents are not emotionally available. When they have this faulty wiring, so to speak, they except all adults to behave the same way. Creating this new muscle memory of turning towards, rather than away from parents is the building block in establishing secure attachment.

With one particular child, the Phase 1 games were difficult but the other phases in Core Attachment Therapy went like a breeze. This demonstrated that her attachment trauma happened in early infancy. As the weeks progressed and her new mommy demonstrated over and over her attunement to her, she took the plunge in a moment to trust. It occurred incidentally when she heard a police car go by the office. She had deer in the head lights look to her, inquired about the siren, then slowly curled up in her mother’s lap and nestled her head into her mother’s neck and shoulder. When it came to really needing to be comforted, she took the chance to trust and it has been smooth sailing for this mother/daughter since.


Hurricane Harvey Project

While watching a Sunday news program during Hurricane Harvey, there was a story regarding the evacuation of the NICU at Baptist Hospital in Beaumont TX. These most vulnerable babies were without their parents for a reported 10 days. This moved me very much knowing that secure attachment development begins at birth.

Since Core Attachment Therapy© is for securing attachments of children with their parents, I felt pulled to help in any way that I can. The occurrence of this devastating storm correlated with the release of my children’s book, Letting Us Into Your Heart. I decided then that I would offer all three Core Attachment Therapy© publications as a box set with 50 per cent of the proceeds going to Baptist Hospital’s NICU. In communications with the NICU, they are thrilled to utilize these donations to help families stay with their newborns via gas cards, hotel vouchers, car seats, etc.

It is with great pride to be of service to these families. The reason why Baptist Hospital was chosen over other hospitals for this project who faced similar evacuations is I, as creator of Core Attachment Therapy© once resided in SE TX. This project keeps my “attachments” secure.

If you are interested in this wonderful cause, please visit for further details.

Play Therapy and Core Attachment Therapy

Part of the therapeutic process of Core Attachment Therapy© is non-directive play therapy. This follows the mommy/daddy games in the therapy session. The purpose of creating this format is for children to have a way of processing the feelings and emotions which may be generated from the attachment games.

A very clear example of the therapeutic value of following this format for children occurred between a 6 year old and his mother.  There was interruption in his attachment development due to his parents use of substances. Both parents were out of the picture for a while. His mother worked hard to get clean and to get her son back.

After interviewing the mother and getting a developmental history of the boy, it was determined that Core Attachment Therapy© would help the boy feel more secure in the world.

As suspected, there were some rough spots during the attachment games. Each corresponded to times in his life where he experienced disruption. What was amazing to witness was the therapeutic play he had created after each of the mommy games.

Phase 1 of attachment development is feeling safe and secure while being cared for. His play evolved around being a wolf in a cave and his mother coming and going bringing things in that they needed.

Phase 2 of attachment development is the understanding that the child is a separate individual from the parent. During this phase of the mommy games, he utilizes mommy/child stuffed animals. The mommy takes the child to and from school and protects the child from troll.

Phase 3 of attachment development is the development of an individuated self. What evolved in this boy’s play was first being doctor’s and taking turns listening to one another’s heart to later playing Hide N’ Seek.

Emotional changes noted in the boy was overall calmness, happiness and ease with being with others.

Your Love is Hope

It is with great pride and excitement to announce the release of my new book Your Love is Hope: Parent Companion Guide to Core Attachment Therapy©. It has several great features, one of which is pages available to journal the week’s progress to share with the child’s therapist.


New Book soon to be released

It is with great excitement to report that Your Love is Hope:Parent Companion of Core Attachment Therapy© has been sent to the publishers and should be available for purchase by the end of this week.

This book is written so that parents have a format to follow to incorporate the attachment games at home with room for journal entries to share with their child’s therapist each week. It can also serve as a “baby” book the adopted child did not have. The journal entries include what we call “greatness” stories from the first three years of being home along with greatness stories of each week.

An additional feature of this book is photographs of each of the mommy/daddy games followed by a description of how the games are played.