What is Theraplay?

Theraplay® is a lively, engaging, playful treatment method that produces remarkable changes in the lives of children and families by strengthening the parent-child relationship. The Theraplay therapist aides the parent and child through playful, fun games, developmentally challenging activities, and tender, nurturing activities. The very act of engaging each other in this way helps the parent regulate the child’s behaviour and communicate love, joy, and safety to the child. It helps the child feel secure, cared for, connected and worthy.

Theraplay involves parents or caregivers actively in sessions with their children in order to create or fine-tune the parent-child relationship.  It focuses on strengthening four main components of the parent-child relationship:

  • Structure: setting limits for children so they can enjoy physical and emotional security.
  • Engagement: excitement, stimulation, and surprise to maintain a child’s alertness and interest.
  • Nurture: warm, soothing and comforting ways of caring for children.
  • Challenge: encourage the child to learn new skills, to take some age-appropriate risks, and to experience success and increase self-confidence.
How Does Theraplay Work?

The therapist will first carry out a brief assessment.  This involves a Marschak Interaction Method assessment (MIM), which is a structured observation technique that is used to evaluate the relationship between a child and his or her parent, and to identify areas of strength and of difficulty.  This information is used to inform treatment planning.

Theraplay sessions are attended by both the parent and the child. The Theraplay therapist leads the child through a series of structured play activities that are chosen to strengthen one or more dimensions of the parent-child relationship.  The activities are adult-lead, playful and relatively short in duration.  As the parent becomes comfortable with the structure and activities they begin to become active participants.

The Theraplay therapist also meets regularly with the parent to review the progress in therapy, and to problem-solve around the child’s behavioural and emotional difficulties at home and school.

Who Would Benefit from Theraplay®?

Theraplay® is an effective treatment for children with a wide range of social difficulties, emotional challenges, and developmental and behavioural problems. It has been used successfully with birth families, foster families and adoptive families to help with:

  • Acting-out, angry or disruptive behaviour
  • Defiant or controlling behaviour
  • Shy, withdrawn or clingy behaviour
  • Attachment issues due to adoption or multiple family placements
  • A history of trauma or neglect
  • Development disorders (Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders)
  • Behavioural problems at school or with peers

More importantly, if you feel stuck in a negative dynamic with your child, feel helpless to deal with your child’s challenges, or despairing of ever having a normal, healthy relationship with your child – you can benefit from Theraplay.

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