Why should I use Theraplay?
Theraplay sessions for children and their parents. It is structured play therapy and its goal is to enhance attachment, self-esteem, trust in others and joyful engagement. The method is fun, physical, personal and interactive and replicates the natural, healthy interaction between parents and young children. Children have been referred for a wide variety of problems including withdrawn or depressed behaviour, overactive-aggressive behaviour, temper tantrums, phobias, and difficulty socializing and making friends. Children also are referred for various behaviour and interpersonal problems resulting from learning disabilities, developmental delays, and pervasive developmental disorders. Because of its focus on attachment and relationship development, Theraplay has been used successfully for many years with foster and adoptive families.
The use of unconstructed materials such as sand and water, paint, glue, clay etc as well as miniature figures of people, animals, trees etc is important to allow the imagination free rein. Making a world in the sand, for instance, gives a child the opportunity of making sense of his or her experience and gaining some control over his or her world in which adults appear so powerful and sometimes threatening. During Special Time the child will develop strategies of how to deal with situations in the real world more appropriately.
Sessions may last from typically 30 to 45 minutes. They may be with individual or groups of children. A variety of techniques – ‘the Play Therapy Toolkit’ is used according to the child’s wishes and the skills of the ‘therapist’. These may include:
With this method, family interaction patterns have changed and schools and paediatricians have reported a reduction of symptoms and improved behaviour in the child. Essentially the same treatment techniques extending over a longer period of time are used with children who have developmental delays, pervasive developmental disorders, and autism.
Theraplay is modelled on the interaction of parents and children in a healthy relationship. In planning for treatment, it is useful to think of the activities that characterize the healthy relationship as falling into four dimensions:
STRUCTURE – The therapist selects and leads the activities (but always remains attuned to the child’s reaction). The fact that the adult is in charge is reassuring, helping the child to develop self-control, and assuring the child of order if the environment is unruly or chaotic. Thus structure addresses both inner and outer disorder. It is especially useful for children who are overactive, undirected, overstimulated, or who want to be in control.
ENGAGEMENT – Engaging activities offer pleasant stimulation, variety, and a fresh view of life, allowing a child to understand that surprises can be fun and new experiences enjoyable. The child is focused on in an intensive, personal way in order to make a connection with the child. Engagement is necessary for all children but is especially appropriate for children who are withdrawn, avoidant of contact, or too rigidly structured. Very withdrawn or children with autism may experience engagement as uncomfortable. In response, the therapist slows the pace and monitors stimulation, but still attempts to entice the child into a relationship.
NURTURE – Soothing, calming, quieting, caretaking activities make the world feel safe, predictable, warm and secure. They also reassure the child that the adult can provide comfort and stability. Nurturing meets the child’s unfulfilled younger needs; helps the child to be able to relax and allow herself to be taken care of; builds the inner representation that the child is lovable and valued. It is especially useful for children who are overactive, aggressive or pseudo-mature.
CHALLENGE – Challenging activities help the child take a mild, age-appropriate risk, and promote feelings of competence and confidence. They are fun, are not done alone, and are cooperative rather than competitive. Challenging activities are especially useful for withdrawn, timid, or rigid children.