What is Theraplay?

Theraplay is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent and child and is personal, physical, and fun. Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge. Theraplay sessions create an active, emotional connection between the child and parent or caregiver, resulting in a changed view of the self as worthy and lovable and of relationships as positive and rewarding.

How Does Theraplay Work?

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 therapist 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.

Why focus on my relationship with my child when it is my child’s behaviour that is the problem?

Good question! 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’s (sensory issues, developmental issues and trauma, 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 to 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.

Who Can Benefit from Theraplay?

Children who are withdrawn, passive, or depressed, children who are overactive or aggressive, children on the autism spectrum, and those who are afraid of relating or attaching;;. 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.

What Will I Learn in Theraplay?

To understand your child’s feelings and behaviours— – why he is behaving the way he is.

To respond to troublesome behaviours in ways that will support self-esteem while, at the same time, decrease your child’s need for the behaviours.

How to sometimes circumvent and other times address head-on 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. We want your child to see you – and for you to see yourself – as a strong, dependable, and caring parent who can manage your child’s struggles and challenges.

How to reconnect with your child (repair) after the inevitable disappointments your child presents to you, and bring him quickly back to a place of well-being with you.

To create pleasurable moments of connection and fun with 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 with the continual support of your therapist. 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.

What Will My Child Learn in Theraplay?

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:…

  • They can trust you to take care of them.
  • They can rely on you to meet their needs for nurturing and comfort.
  • To accept appropriate structure, limits, rules.
  • Your child will increasingly enjoy engaging with you.
  • They will feel worthy of care, counteracting any negative experiences they may have had.

Children with developmental/communication issues will learn:

  • That interacting with others is fun and pleasurable.
  • How to read social cues and others’ feelings.
  • The rhythm and give-and-take of social relationships.

What Is a Typical Theraplay Treatment Session?

A Theraplay session usually lasts 40-50 minutes.  The room has mats, cushions and a couch. In a typical session, the therapist 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 therapist has prepared.  The therapist 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 therapist 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 therapist will also initiate quiet activities to nurture your child.   Parent involvement increases as therapy progresses), eventually the therapist will ask you to play the games in order to facilitate the connection with you and build your skills at responding to your child’s needs.  At the end of the session, the therapist may ask you to play some of the games at home.

Get in Touch!

If you would like to know more, or book a free consultation, please contact us or complete our referral form.