Welcome back to Headstart For Life’s Blog, Beyond Therapy!
In today’s post, we are going to discuss how parents are an integral part of the therapy process.
Parents are the natural partners of a child’s therapist. They are often the referrer and the main persons who bring their child for therapy services due to a variety of reasons – the child may be experiencing some difficulties at home, school or in other social arenas.
Parents are the main focal point for a therapist and the main person to collaborate with in order to estimate the child’s behavioral and/or emotional changes, as well as his/her improvements.
There are different ways to partner with parents during child therapy. In the traditional Play Therapy, parents and the therapist meet at the beginning of the process, and then subsequently every after few weeks, while the child has individual weekly play therapy sessions, and child being the main client.
However, there are other play-based modalities to include parents as change agents in the therapy process.
Let’s take Theraplay as an example.
Theraplay is a therapy model that is based on a dyadic approach. Therefore, sessions include the parent, the child, and the therapist all-together. In sessions, the three play together a set of games and activities that are designed around the child’s difficulties and to strengthen the child-parent relationship. In addition, these activities assist in promoting the child’s ability to self-regulate, adhere to boundaries, follow the parent’s lead, improve self-management skills and most importantly, foster the feeling of being loved and valued. The sessions encourage the parent and child to enjoy being with each other.
In other modalities, like the Filial Play Coaching, the therapist coaches the parent to use techniques and skills to reduce challenging behaviors and to strengthen child-parent bonding.
In filial play coaching, the parent and therapist meet weekly to enhance the parental skills and add on aids while the parent conducts ‘special playtime’ with the child at home a few times a week. The therapist meets the child only occasionally when needed. By putting consistent boundaries, using a reflective approach and meeting the child’s needs, the child will be assisted by the parent to find his resolution.
In this model, the parent becomes the change agent and has a great impact on the child’s positive changes. Possible outcomes from Filial Play Coaching include better communication and connection between parent and child, better self-regulation, improvement in confidence and a higher sense of accomplishment, lesser aggression, and reduction of “attention-seeking” behaviors.
We have covered several therapeutic approaches so far. In each, the involvement of parents contributes significantly to therapy effectiveness. These approaches are suitable for children ages 2-16 years old, and all of them use PLAY as a medium to achieve positive changes.
The use of play and games is significant as it is less threatening for a child. It helps to reinforce behavioral and emotional changes in a more subtle way. The child doesn’t need to speak about his difficulties or cognitively face his challenges – playing out newly gained strategies, for example, communication style, calming techniques etc.
The play-tools are varied and may include art materials, musical instruments, drama and dressing-up, sensory-based kits like sand and clay, person-approach and collaborative games like hand-clapping games, ‘follow the leader’ and even soap bubbles.
The important underlying message is to allow the child to express himself, develop a sense of trust through participating in games with a trusted adult, enjoy the safe space that is being created for the child, and to allow an evolution of the interaction and the connection between the child and the adult – either a parent or a therapist.
The main goal of play therapy is to allow the child to achieve growth, learn to trust himself, and feel more competent and valuable. We believe this will lead to better well-being and a higher sense of happiness for the child and his surroundings.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned to HeadStart For Life’s blog so you don’t miss our next post!