Parent-Child play therapy (formally known as Filial Play Therapy) is a unique form of play therapy, developed by Dr. Louise and Dr. Bernard Guerney, that works to strengthen the parent-child attachment in order to create change for the child and the family. This modality honours the vital connection between parents/caregivers and their child(ren) as well as the importance of the family unit in healing and moving forward together. Parents/caregivers, instead of the therapist, become the change agent for their child and family (VanFleet, Risë; Filial Therapy; 2014).
Parents work with our therapist to learn and practice specific skills so that they can run therapeutic play sessions with their child(ren). Our play therapist acts like a teacher and coach in helping parents develop these skills and feel comfortable in their knowledge before including the child(ren) into the playroom. Once parents feel ready, parents run therapeutic play sessions in our office with our play therapist present to provide support, guidance, and feedback. These sessions allow parents to practice their skills in a controlled environment without the added worries and pressures of day-to-day life at home. After several play sessions at our office, our therapist will support you in transitioning these play sessions home and incorporating the skills outside of the play time.
This process takes approximately 18-20 sessions total. That can feel like a lot of time for parents who feel stressed and urgently need something to change for their child or family. However, research shows us that this model can create lasting change for parents and families and noticeable decreases parental stress! (VanFleet, Risë; 2010)
This is a very different way of playing than what most families are familiar with. During these special play sessions, parents allow their child to be fully in the lead, while maintaining safety, and the child has the opportunity to direct what is happening and how it is going to happen. So much of a child's life is completely out of their control and kids often act out in difficult ways to try and get that control back. By letting kids be in control during play sessions, we are saying "you can't be in charge of everything, but you can be in charge of the play".
This kind of play also teaches parents to be highly attuned to their child throughout the session. This attunement goes a long way in strengthening the parent-child attachment! Research also shows that a major factor in predicting whether a child will respond to an adult is a positive relationship between the adult and the child. These special play times build that positive relationship in a fun and developmentally appropriate way.
We totally understand that parents are not trained therapists! That's what we are here for! Our play therapist works with parents to make sure that they understand the play skills and why they are important and to make sure that parents feel ready before jumping into play sessions with their kids. Our play therapist will also debrief with you after each play session to tell you everything you are doing well as well as helping to decipher what your child's play might mean. Our play therapist also continues to meet with parents even after the play sessions have transitioned home to ensure that parents feel comfortable in their skills and are managing special play time in the busyness of their everyday lives.
Research on Filial Therapy has shown that it is effective for an extremely wide range of difficulties facing children and parents, including anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, grief and loss, autism, trauma, separation and divorce, behavioural challenges, social difficulties, and more. Researchers have also found that it can be helpful as a preventative measure for families. If you aren't sure if this fits for your family, reach out below and our play therapist would be happy to talk with you and answer any questions you might have!
We would love to answer your questions and talk with you more about how Filial Therapy might support you and your family! Call or email us below and our play therapist will be happy to connect with you!
Our play therapist is excited to support you and your family in building a strong family through play!
Tessellate Child and Family Therapy
Suite 108 5407 Eglinton Avenue West, Etobicoke, ON
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