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

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.



Attachment Work and Older Children

I have started Core Attachment Therapy© with a young adolescent and her mother. The attachment disruption for these two was several psychiatric hospitalizations of the mother during the girl’s first 4 years of life. The mother has been stable for many years and is in a healthy relationship now.This stability has allowed us to move forward with attachment work.

As one might expect, there was initial resistance on the girl’s behalf, not wanting to “time travel” (a phrase I use when describing Core Attachment Therapy© to older children) back to when she was little. Although she cooperated, her body language was loud that she just didn’t want to be here. As we continued, her body language got quieter and quieter and within minutes, she was all in with giggles and full participation. During the second session, no resistance at all. Just eager participation and hunger for hearing the great qualities she had shown that week.

This affirms to me that the brain is primed for healing. It just needs a way to get there. This experience also affirms to me that Core Attachment Therapy© strikes this cord towards healing the early psychic wound in a very gentle, respectful and caring way.



Core Attachment And Teens

People have been curious of Core Attachment Therapy works for teenagers.  I have just completed this process with two families of teens – one a 15 year old boy adopted at the age of 10 and a 15 year old girl adopted at the age of 8. With the 15 year old boy, he reports feeling that he feels seen for the first time and that he has a voice now. Prior to our work together, he isolated himself in his room and his family felt that he was going to be unreachable. For the 15 year old girl, she felt she had to take care of everything because there was no one to trust. She also was an emotional eater due to feeling there was no one to turn to. With Core Attachment Therapy with her adoptive mother, she now lets her mother take care of things and more importantly, is now turning to her mother for comfort rather than turning to food.  These are just two case samples of how Core Attachment Therapy can have a profoundly positive effect even for adolescents.