What is Theraplay?



Lisa Keane, Clinical Director Marriage and Family | MAMFC, LPC-S, NCC, Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor


Theraplay is very different than the standard approach to counseling with children. According to the Theraplay Institute, "Theraplay is an engaging, playful, relationship-focused treatment method that is interactive, physical, personal, and fun. Its principles are based on attachment theory and its model is the healthy, attuned interaction between parents and their children." Counselors use Theraplay to enhance attachment, engagement, self-esteem, and trust in others.

Theraplay activities are very simple with the therapist in charge. "The simplicity allows the full impact of the process to be felt by the child. Theraplay activities aim at creating a feeling of closeness between the child and parent, which is attained through activities in which the child experiences the adult as creating the structure (the rules, etc.) and also nurturing the child. The goal of therapy is that the child be more at ease with adults and other children, have less of a need to stay in charge, and be more spontaneously able to experience and express her feelings." (Theraplay Institute).

Oftentimes, children who have experienced trauma such as abuse, neglect, medical issues, seeing traumatic material, etc., will have a difficult time regulating their emotions and behaviors. Theraplay is designed to help them relearn how to regulate themselves and their emotions. It is essentially work the child needs in order to get back on track in their developmental process. Therefore, Theraplay is geared toward a child's emotional level, not their chronological age.

Theraplay is used with a wide variety of issues. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Reactive Attachment Disorder can all benefit from Theraplay. It is also used to work with children with developmental delays and Autism. Some children without a diagnosis can also benefit from the interactions of Theraplay, including children who are acting out, angry, non-compliant, withdrawn, depressed, and those with attachment insecurities.

If you believe your child could benefit from Theraplay or if you would like to know more about Theraplay, email us or give us a call: pathways@pathwayprofessional.org or 1-866-991-6864. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have.