Our History

History of Alabama Play Therapy Association

In the Beginning…

History of AAPTDuring the spring of 1991, Karla Carmichael, Ph.D. began teaching Play Therapy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

It was during that time through her leadership and foresight Karla began to pioneer the establishment of the Alabama branch of the national Association for Play Therapy (APT). With this vision came a tremendous amount of dedication, organization and paperwork.

In 1992, 100% of the states membership (the charter members) voted by mail to begin a state branch.

Karla submitted our letter of intent for a Branch Chapter to Lessie Perry on January 19, 1993. The cost was $25 dollars, and Karla wrote a personal check to cover it.

Charter members were: Carol B. Sumrall, Eidele L. Sainker, Terri Mattson, Sandy Magnuson, Jeannie Lanier, Sandra Kendall, Peggy Cass Howard, Karin Confer, Jana Donahoe, and Karla Carmichael. Carol Sumrall accepted the position for Vice President for the purposes of the Branch application and Karin Confer was the first Secretary. Neither ever served in office after the Charter was awarded.

In March 1993 the Association for Play Therapy Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 1, page 8, announced the first two Branches in the United States to be organized. This distinction went to Alabama and Oregon!

Karla’s tireless efforts and energy to complete the manuals, networking, all the paperwork and voting led the way for the creation of Alabama Association for Play Therapy (AAPT). We were awarded our charter in October 1993 in Atlanta, Georgia at the APT Conference.

This was a proud moment in our history.

Being one of the first Branches of APT in the entire nation still serves as a catalyst today as we continue our efforts to promote play therapy across our state.

Once AAPT was chartered, the first state meeting took place at the National Symposium on Child Abuse in Huntsville. Three individuals attended and each took on an official role with the organization. It was fitting that Karla Carmichael served as our first president.

Karla also created newsletters, mail outs and nametags, and various other necessary paperwork; all of which was completed on her personal computer and printer. Karla recalls wearing out a really good printer as a result of all the color printing that AAPT needed.

Eidele Sainker served as our first Treasurer, handling all money matters, and also worked toward recruiting members. Julie Kastanakis served as secretary.

The Early Years

AAPT’s second and third state meetings were held at the Oasis Counseling Center in Birmingham, because it was free and early members, Wanda Bowden and Janice Howard, could reserve Oasis library space for the meeting.

These two members along with others like Gail Warren and Debra Atchison, met while taking Karla’s initial Play Therapy classes at Alabama. During Karla’s first supervision group they began to meet in the Birmingham area for peer support and consultation on play therapy.

During these early years, AAPT did not have the funds available to pay for national presenters, so the members would volunteer to share what they learned at other trainings. Utilizing members for these early trainings went a long way to help build funds that would eventually be used to hire a national speaker for an AAPT workshop.

“Passion yields great energy!” commented Wanda Bowden.

Girl On The Swing

Girl On The Swing - AAPTIn forming AAPT’s identity it was felt a logo would be a helpful step in that direction, but each state chapter had to design and purchase their own.

AAPT’s first logo was designed by Janice Howard. This logo was well received and is still a favorite of many long time members.

The “Girl on the Swing”, as it is lovingly referred to, was used until APT changed their mind and asked for all chapters to use a standard APT logo which is personalized for each state.

In these early years pins, signs, sticky-notes, and other items were ordered and used to help increase knowledge about AAPT and membership through out the state.

Karla and later Adam Calvert were key in the early publicity for AAPT. Members set up a table at the Alabama Counseling Association (ALCA) Workshop with brochures in an attempt to promote play therapy and to recruit interest and members.

Workshop Memories

On January 14, 2000 the first AAPT Winter Workshop was held in the basement of Unity of Birmingham Church.

This church graciously allowed us to use their space at no charge. Workshops in the early days were held in spaces that could be obtained for free, so that the only cost to AAPT was postage for workshop announcements.

Workshop presenters were Karla Carmichael who presented Storytelling with Children in Play Therapy and both Janice Howard and Wanda Moore Bowden presented on Sand Play Therapy.

Rod Marshall remembers “the dust from the sand trays that were handed out deeply offended some of the allergic participants at the conference and resulted in mass sneezing, coughing and exiting of the room.”

Refreshments were brought in by Program Committee members – water, juice, cokes, cookies, danish.

There were about 40 people in attendance including Missy Beaird, President, Ashley Ferguson, President Elect, Barbara Williams, Secretary, Eidele Sainker, Treasurer, Bonnie Roberts, Program Committee, and Karla Carmichael, Executive Director.

Eidele recalled that AAPT gave the church a $50 “love offering” for use of their facilities.

After two workshops at Unity, AAPT’s next workshop was held in the waiting room of a plastic surgeon’s office close to Five Points in Birmingham. Karla Carmichael remembers AAPT was asked to be quiet as the employees kept “shushing us”.

Rod Marshall remembers during lunch break actually having to walk through a crowded waiting room for post-op plastic surgery patients….”Apparently cosmetic surgery patients do not like loud playful groups!”

At the business meeting that day, board members reformulated plans for the May 2000 conference. Rod Marshall, President at the time, invited AAPT to come to the beautiful, new Alabama Baptist Children’s Counseling Center on Rocky Ridge Road in Hoover for our next workshop.

We Keep Growing

Paper Dolls Paper Airplanes - AAPT HistoryOn May 5, 2000 Liana Lowenstein presented Paper Dolls and Paper Airplanes: Assessing and Treating Sexually Traumatized Children in Play Therapy AND The Toy Box: Transforming Toys and Games into Therapeutic Interventions in Play Therapy.

Liana was our first national presenter and first regional draw. Until this time, workshops were attended by just members. Liana filled the room to more than capacity with over 75 people. It was literally standing room only!

This made it clear that Alabama supported Play Therapy and there was an excitement about learning more! Refreshments were again provided by the Program Committee. Many more than expected attended this conference. As a result AAPT became stronger financially allowing us to begin focusing on acquiring national presenters for our conferences.

AAPT’s winter workshop January 26, 2001 took place again at the Alabama Baptist Children’s Counseling Center, a longtime supporter of AAPT and an agency staffed with the most registered play therapists.

This winter workshop offered local presentations from Karla Carmichael, Melanie Howard, Rod Marshall, Terry Simms Bowen, and Kim Brindley. AAPT donated $50 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home in appreciation for the use of their facility, audio-visual equipment, and preparation of snack breaks for both the spring 2000 and winter 2001 workshop.

We continued to meet at the Alabama Baptist Children’s Counseling Center until we outgrew the space.

After this AAPT provided national presenters for both the winter and spring workshops. The newfound financial resources allowed AAPT to bring in another national known presenter for our next conference, Dr. Terry Kottman. This workshop was held at the Scrushy Center.

Since then, AAPT’s financial security and the unwavering support from members and friends has allowed our efforts to provide state of the art training by nationally known presenters to continue.

In the beginning, The University of Alabama gave AAPT permission to use their NBCC number for all of our CEUs. Karla Carmichael was the person in charge of the Provider Number. Karla remembers the University of Alabama requested that they “borrow” our number and basically there was some kind of a mix up and Counselor Education lost the number and control of it to the University. So that meant that AAPT had to get its own provider number, which we did secure!

Having our own provider number created greater autonomy and was empowering as well as beneficial to members by allowing us to provide more opportunities for CEU credit.

During Rod Marshall’s leadership as President from 1999 to 2001 he further developed AAPT and brought us up to date with technology by developing and creating AAPT’s first website.

Rod’s initiative and energy with this timely project helped facilitate more understanding and a broader audience to play therapy in the state of Alabama. At that time, many states did not have a website, but it was through Rod’s leadership and willingness to take on the role as webmaster that Alabama was one of the first state branches with their own website.

Together Rod Marshall, Debra Atchison, Terry Bowen and others worked on long range planning and a goal of bringing dynamic and innovative speakers to educate our membership on play therapy.

AAPT’s success as conference planners has secured our status as one of APT’s strongest state chapters.

Dr. Garry Landreth

Dr Gary Landreth - AAPT WorkshopIn May of 2005 AAPT brought play therapy pioneer, Garry L. Landreth, Ed.D., LPC, RPT-S, internationally known for his writing and work in promoting the development of play therapy to Alabama.

It was AAPT’s first two day spring conference May 5-6, 2005.

Garry Landreth presented Healing the Hurting Child: Necessary Dimensions of Child-Centered Play Therapy and Child Parent Relationship Therapy. This conference took place at the picturesque Carraway-Davie House.

AAPT continues to hear from members on how pivotal and useful this workshop was for them both personally and professionally. In Garry Landreth’s book Issues, Process, and Special Populations he states,

“Play Therapy is not a cloak the play therapist puts on when entering the playroom and takes off when leaving, rather, it is a philosophy resulting in attitudes and behaviors for living one’s life in relationship with children.”

This is a philosophy that AAPT tries to live by and encourage in others.

AAPT By-Laws

Debra Atchison and Terry Bowen worked together in the early 2000’s to work on updating our organizations By-Laws.

This was a crucial step in keeping AAPT on track and moving forward. As the years went on and the membership began to grow AAPT began to look toward ways to bring affordable, quality play therapy training to all areas of our state.

The APT concept of regional workshops came to fruition for the first time in Alabama in February of 2006. Sharon McGee presented Finding Sunshine After the Storm: Play Therapy for Children Recovering from Sexual Abuse at our first regional conference in Montgomery, Alabama.

This regional conference was co-sponsored by the Counseling Center at Auburn Montgomery saving on costs and networking with other agencies. The room was at capacity and members wanted more regional trainings.

AAPT listened and in 2007 Rod Marshall presented a regional workshop entitled, How to Help Kids: An Overview of Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy and Interventions in Sheffield, Alabama.

Response to this training was phenomenal and more regional workshops are planned for the future.

The “Karla Carmichael” Grant

At the January, 2002 Board meeting the idea of a Karla Carmichael Grant was approved.

This Grant was established to help mental health practitioners with research or projects to help promote play therapy and as a way to recognize and thank Karla Carmichael for her extraordinary contributions in creating and developing AAPT.

At the May, 2002 Board meeting the rough draft of the grant application was presented for discussion by the Karla Carmichael Grant Committee: Rod Marshall, Eidele Sainker and Rochelle Lynch. Members later reviewed and revised the rough draft by mail so that it could be finalized and put on line for easy access to our members.

The first grant was for $500 in 2003 and it has been increased by $500 each year until reaching $3000.

Recent Years

In 2007, AAPT received the prestigious award of Gold Branch from Association for Play Therapy from APT. (Picture of gold branch).

State branches that exhibit superior performance are annually presented the Gold Branch Award.

Requirements include:

  • Compliance with their charter agreement
  • Increase Professional membership
  • Provide at least 12 hours of APT approved play therapy continuing education
  • Have multiple communications with members
  • Sponsor public outreach
  • Attend the national branch meeting

When AAPT began there was only one university in Alabama teaching a course in play therapy, now there are five with a graduate play therapy course.


Future Developments

AAPT continues to bring cutting edge national presenters.

However, what each of you are doing in your own communities is what will make our future history. In the Montgomery area Sharon Bell has spearheaded, with support from Sharon McGee and Lisa Elliott, an informative, community-based, networking meetings in the Montgomery area.

It is known as the Central Alabama Play Therapy Network (CAPTN) and is open to anyone in the area. These and other presentations, peer and networking groups develop community professionalism, which in turn leads to better services to children, adolescents and families.

We want to add you to the history books!

Let us know what you are doing to promote play therapy in your community. We appreciate you and want to support you in making this happen!

We hope you will consider offering a regional training in your area. Let us know and we will help you!

Past Presidents of AAPT

  • Kourtney Young 2022-2023
  • Amy Davis 2021-2022
  • James Jackson 2020-2021
  • Halie Keel 2019-2020
  • Korinne Babel 2018-2019
  • Heather Hardeman 2017-2018
  • Celeste Neil 2016-2017
  • Laura Brown 2015-2016
  • Katie McKeen 2013-2014
  • Lisa Elliot /Rebecca Jacobson (elected and immediately took office as president instead of elect) 2011-2013
  • Sharon McGee (resigned due to illness) 2011
  • Lisa Elliot 2009-2011
  • Kim Brindley 2007-2009
  • Terry Bowen 2005-2007
  • Debra Atchison 2002-2004
  • Rod Marshall 1999-2001
  • Ashley Ferguson 1996-1998
  • Missy Beaird 1997-1998
  • Janice Howard 1994-1996
  • Karla Carmichael 1992-1994