Theraplay is a special type of play therapy that can improve your child’s behaviour in unique ways. Using the therapeutic benefits of joyful play and sensitive caregiving Theraplay focuses on strengthening your relationship with your child, enhancing your sense of connection and mutual understanding so that your child no longer needs to resort to problem behaviours. As the most important people in a child’s life, caregivers are actively involved in sessions. With the help of the Theraplay practitioner who is skilled at changing what may seem to you a permanent negative dynamic between you, you and your child will experience delight and enjoyment in each other and your child will become more responsive to you.
While other therapies may work primarily with your child alone or work with you on managing her behaviours, we think that how your child feels about herself and about you, and how you feel about her are the most important focus of treatment. This is because your relationship with each other is the most powerful and most influential element for change. Although some problems can reside for the most part in your child (sensory issues, developmental issues and trauma, for example), how you respond to any problems your child is exhibiting can make a huge difference. In Theraplay sessions, we help your child experience interactions that have previously been hard or troublesome in new ways that help her learn that relationships can be positive and even fun and that you understand her needs. This will help her be more cooperative with and responsive to you and others.
At any age, children who are withdrawn, passive or depressed, children who are overactive or aggressive, children on the autism spectrum and those who are afraid of relating or attaching because of adoption, losses or trauma can be helped by Theraplay. Theraplay is an especially effective treatment for young children - even for those under three years of age - because it is play-based rather than language-based. The active playfulness of Theraplay often engages children who have not responded to more traditional therapy approaches or who are oppositional. Theraplay’s appealing activities help these children “buy into” the therapeutic process and brings about change without the need for the child to talk about or express problems.
The practitioner will help you to understand your child’s feelings and behaviours and learn new ways of responding to your child’s difficult behaviours in ways that further the parent-child bond and build your child’s self-control, feeling of competence, and sense of continued connection with you. The practitioner aims to create pleasurable moments of connection and fun for you and your child that will bring you shared joy and strengthen your relationship. You will learn these things by doing them in the Theraplay sessions with your child and with the continual support of the Theraplay practitioner. In Theraplay, we don’t just talk about being different with your child, we actually do things differently with your child in the session. This will give you a hands-on, totally supported experience of improving interactions with your child. Your child will learn to see you as strong, wise, and skilful in helping her out of distressful moments and into better behaviours. Your child will feel closer to you and your influence will grow. In response to your new skills, your child will feel more competent and confident. She will feel calmer, less anxious, angry, frightened, or timid. Your child will get along better with other authority figures and with peers and siblings. She will not have to resort to problematic behaviours to get her needs met. Children who have suffered separation, loss, abuse or neglect will learn that they can trust you to take care of them; they can rely on you to meet their needs for nurturing and comfort; they will accept appropriate structure, limits, rules; they will increasingly enjoy engaging with you. Children with developmental/communication issues will learn that interacting with others is fun and pleasurable; how to read social cues and others' feelings and the rhythm and give-and-take of social relationships.
A Theraplay session usually lasts 40-50 minutes. The room will be set up in comfortable way with cushions, blankets and a set area to play in. In a typical session the practitioner will invite you and your child into the Theraplay room in a fun way, such as hopping on one foot and lead you and your child to a special seat that the practitioner has prepared. The practitioner will lead the child through a series of simple, fun games and activities, while helping the child be successful and competent. If the child resists the activities, the practitioner will find responses that get the child back on track while still maintaining a positive connection with the child. In addition to playful, physical games, the practitioner will also initiate quiet activities to nurture your child. Depending on the stage of the intervention (parent involvement increases as the sessions progress) the practitioner will ask you to play the games in order to facilitate connection and build your skills at responding to your child’s needs. At the end of the session the practitioner may ask you to play some of the games at home. Typically every fourth session is a parent-only session where you and the practitioner will talk about progress and how to address any behaviour problems at home.