Adapting non-directive play therapy interventions for children with attachment disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • V. Ryan


Publication details

JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
DatePublished - 2004
Issue number1
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)75-87
Original languageEnglish


Brief, intensive, non-directive play therapy with a looked after child in transition who had serious attachment problems is discussed in this article. As a background to deriving practice suggestions from this difficult and largely unsuccessful intervention, the play therapy literature on maltreated children is presented. Heard and Lake’s extension of attachment theory, ‘the dynamics of attachment and interestsharing’, is then used to analyse and understand the complexities of the intra-and interpersonal relationships within this intervention from the child’s, carers’, social worker’s and therapist’s viewpoints. Finally, practice suggestions are made, namely, that: (i) in complex cases for shorter term work, consultations based on Heard and Lake’s theory, rather than direct work by the therapist, should be considered; and (ii) a combination of filial therapy and the use of Heard and Lake’s theory can provide both the depth of understanding needed by professionals and the development of appropriate adult–child attachment relationships in longer term work.

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