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All professionals working with children and adolescents are invited to attend!

2023 PA APT Conference: Who We Are
2023 PA APT Conference: Video

Day 1 - April 28, 2022

Attachment Dynamics in Play Therapy

Attachment is a relational process that impacts the development of all children. As a result, it is important for play therapists to recognize how attachment patterns manifest in play therapy and learn ways to both enhance and promote attachment security in children.


Attachment Theory is one of the seminal and historically significant theories in Play Therapy. Attachment is a developmental process relevant to all children and their caregivers. As a result, the play therapist is always confronted with attachment dynamics in some manner in the play therapy process. Early attachment experiences in a child’s life form a lasting template for future relationships and also advance the development of neuropathways for a child’s future capacity to recognize both safety and danger, to seek out support, and to regulate their emotional states. 

How attachment practically shows up in play therapy is often unnoticed and frequently misunderstood. As a result, it is important for play therapists to consider attachment needs in assessment and treatment planning and to be knowledgeable of the various ways attachment patterns emerge in the play therapy process.  

This workshop will explore the application of attachment theory and research in play therapy sessions with children and families. Drawing concepts from Theraplay, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Child Parent Psychotherapy and Circle of Security participants will learn practical ways to promote secure attachment and work with insecure attachment patterns in the play therapy process. 

Learning Objectives:

1. Describe the 3 organized attachment patterns and how they impact the play therapy process

2. Assess and analyze prominent attachment dynamics in the play therapy room.

3. Discuss and differentiate between organized  and disorganized attachment and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

4. Explain the attachment theory concepts of safe haven and secure base and how to apply these concepts in the play therapy room.

5. List the 4 Dimensions of Theraplay and describe one secure attachment promoting activity from each one. 

6. List 2 play therapy interventions that enhance parent-child attachment.

2023 PA APT Conference: Text

Day 2 - April 29, 2022

Engaging Parents in Play Therapy

Research has clearly shown that parent involvement in child therapy increases the effectiveness and improves treatment outcomes.  Play therapy will be most effective when parents are engaged in the play therapy process. This workshop will address various ways to motivate and integrate parent involvement in play therapy.


Although most play therapists would agree that parent involvement at some level is important in play therapy, many play therapists struggle with how to motivate and engage parents to be involved in their child’s treatment. 

This workshop will be interactive and experiential addressing engaging parents and caregivers in play therapy. There will be an emphasis on the application of attachment theory to the play therapy process as it relates to both parents and children. 

Participants will learn about the various levels of parent involvement across a continuum from parent consultation, to parents being present and actively involved in play therapy sessions, and potentially even having individual sessions with parents as part of their child’s play therapy treatment process. A brief review of family systems theory will be included in the workshop addressing how family systems theory related to both attachment theory and the play therapy process. 

Participants will learn ways to deal with challenging parents and techniques to more deeply understand the ways in which a parent’s attachment history may be negatively impacting the play therapy process. 

Lastly, participants will have an opportunity to create a plan to redefine and/or reevaluate how they wish to involve parents in the play therapy process.

Learning Objectives:

1. Define 4 Adult Attachment classification patterns and how they correspond to child attachment patterns 

2. Describe two common barriers to parent engagement in play therapy and ways to overcome them.

3. Define Wondering, Following and Holding and how they relate the parent engagement in play therapy

4. List two reasons why it’s important to know the parent’s own history of being parented.

5. Name and summarize the 5 stages of change and how they relate to engaging parents in the play therapy process. 

6. Define mentalization and how it relates to the play therapy process.

2023 PA APT Conference: Text

Karen Buckwalter, LCSW, RPT-S is the Director of Clinical Practice at Chaddock. She is a therapist, author, and podcaster. She has more than 30 years of experience working with families specializing in attachment and trauma issues primarily in the fields of foster care and adoption.

She has co-authored journal articles and book chapters as well as articles that have appeared in Adoption Today and Fostering Families Today Magazines. Her first book, Attachment Theory in Action, edited with Debbie Reed was released in 2017 and she also hosts the Attachment theory In Action podcast. Her second book co-authored with Debbie Reed and Wendy Lyons Sunshine, Raising the Challenging Child, released in January 2020.

Find Karen on social media:

Facebook: @karendoylebuckwalter

Twitter: @kbuckwalter

Instagram: @karendoylebuckwalter

LinkedIn: Karen Doyle Buckwalter

2023 PA APT Conference: Text
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