Trauma Specialist Program and, Forensic Psychological Assessments & Therapy

Child Attachment and Play Assessment (CAPA)

Attachment and exploration are closely related behavioral systems. One way of activating both systems in children is the use of narrative story stems-a doll-play procedure in which the adult gives the child the beginning of a story (the stem) and asks them to finish it by "telling and showing me what happens next."

The Child Attachment and Play Assessment (CAPA) assesses attachment and complex trauma in children aged 3 – 11 years. This is a doll-play procedure which is filmed and usually takes about 25 minutes to adminster. It uses the established narrative story stem procedure. All the stories pull for attachment issues. There are two sets of stories, one for children aged 3 — 6 years using the established story stem batteries and another for 7 – 12 year olds using stories developed for the CAPA. Adolescents can also be assessed using the CAPA since there is an ongoing piloting procedure for this age group. They undergo the assessment using age appropriate story stems and props.

The CAPA is designed for use with clinical and maltreated populations and has proved a reliable and non-intrusive method for examining young children’s mental representations of attachment and relationships. It is a particularly good procedure for assessing the impact of developmental trauma.

The CAPA provides a reliable means of assessing children's attachment strategies using Crittenden's Dynamic Maturational Model (DMM) of attachment together with play-based dimensions that assess mentalizing (i.e., the ability to think about ourselves and others in terms of intentional mental states together with the awareness that the contents of our mind may be different to that of people).

The CAPA is used by independent practitioners and several local authority social service departments in the UK to assess children in need, for understanding the perspectives of adopted and fostered chidlren, and also for court reports. Because children’s stories involve fantasy as well as reality the procedure should not be used to determine whether a child has been abused or maltreated.

Our current research is centred on the bio-physiology of trauma and attachment, specificaly heart rate variability and skin conductance. We are also looking at the relationship between sensory integration and attachment with the view to making finer distinctions between what is organic (e.g. global developmental delay, forms of learning disability and autistic spectrum disorders) and what is attachment/environmentally based.

Mr. Paran and Ms. Thivya are psychologists at Psych Connect who formally trained to conduct testing using the CAPA. All assessments are reliably coded and supervised by CAPA developer Dr Steve Farnfield. Should you require more information on the CAPA or would like to speak to our clinicians, please do not hestitate to contact us.