Are Essential FirstPlay® Activities Extinct? The Effect of Cyberbabies on Attachment 


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In this video interview, Dr. Janet Courtney discusses how many Play Therapists are trained in methods that intervene at the symbolic level of play. However, it’s the pre-symbolic level of play, or FirstPlay®, that sets the foundation for on-going healthy emotional and cognitive development. And, unlike symbolic play, FirstPlay® type activities can only happen in relationship with another—such as the infant game of peek-a-boo.

These joyful experiences release the hormones necessary to wire the brain for life-long secure attachment relationships. At the same time children learn to develop a bodily sense of self and an internal core sense of “I” or a ‘home” within.

What happens when infants do not receive those vital FirstPlay experiences? Since John Bowlby introduced Attachment Theory, many studies have examined several variables that can impede the development of secure attachments. However, modern technology has posed a new clinical challenge—CYBERBABIES, as coined by cyber-psychologist, Mary Aikin, PhD, is a new threat to the development of secure attachment relationships, potentially leading to what she calls an “evolutionary blip” in our human development. Join Dr. Courtney as she discusses this concern that impacts the work of Play Therapists and what you can do about it to make a difference.


1. Explain the difference between symbolic and pre-symbolic play in regards to play therapy sessions.

2. Describe at least two reasons why technology is a threat to secure attachment relationships and how this can be addressed using FirstPlay® play therapy interventions.

3. Name three FirstPlay® type activities that play therapists can implement to guide parents in an Infant Play Therapy session.

SPEAKER BIO - Dr. Janet Courtney

Dr. Janet Courtney

Janet Courtney, PhD, LCSW is Founder of FirstPlay® Therapy and offers a Certification to Practitioners in FirstPlay® Infant Massage & Kinesthetic Storytelling®. Since 1997, she has been an Adjunct Professor at Barry University, Miami, FL where she also obtained her Doctoral degree in Social Work completing a dissertation in Developmental Play Therapy, touch and attachment. She is a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor and past President of the Florida Association for Play Therapy.

Dr. Courtney is author and co-author of the groundbreaking book, Touch in Child Counseling and Play Therapy: An Ethical and Clinical Guide, and is published in the International Journal of Play Therapy, the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, and the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture. Other publications include chapters in the books, Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature-Assisted Theory and Practice (2017) and in Play-based Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (2012).

Janet’s career has focused on attachment and bonding, and the importance of nurturing touch between parents and their young children. As a wholistic oriented practitioner, she believes in the power of infant massage and joyful “first-play” activities (for example, patty cake and peek-a-boo) as the best start for infant mental health.

Dr. Courtney is an internationally recognized play therapist and has been invited to speak on topics of infant and childhood play therapy in England, Ireland, Morocco, Russia, Ukraine, and the Cayman Islands. She has acted as a consultant to several Florida based children’s agencies, and supervises clinicians seeking Florida board licensure, as well as, those seeking Certification as a Registered Play Therapist. Dr. Courtney has developed a new process of storytelling called FirstPlay® Kinesthetic Storytelling® which merges imagery relaxation skills with joyful first-play interactive parent-child activities. Her children’s book, The Magic Rainbow Hug©, makes this technique directly accessible to professionals, parents, and the children who can most benefit from its use.


 1 Hour Non-Contact Credit Is Available For This Course With The Purchase Of The All Access Pass

(All Access Pass Purchase Offer Comes Immediately After Summit Registration!)

20 Total Hours of Credit Available As Part of the All Access Pass.  See terms here. 

**Play Therapy credit will not be awarded to non-mental health professionals**

Summit Founder and Hostess:  Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT-S

For questions or comments about this event, email info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com


Jennifer has nearly 20 years experience working with children and families.  She is currently licensed in Florida, Tennessee, and Hawaii.  She is EMDR Trained and TF-CBT Certified.  

She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Memphis and has presented at multiple national conferences.  Jennifer provides play therapy case consultation, supervision and training (APT Approved Provider 12-331).  

Oh, and she also has three children under the age of 4 and a pretty fantastic husband!