Ask the Experts: The unique aspects of play-based therapy and whom it can benefit most
Not all adoptive families find success in traditional therapy. Cradle adoption therapist and certified Theraplay® therapist Mandy Jones favors a playful approach to reframe negative behaviors and aims to build and enhance attachment, self-esteem, and trust in others through joyful engagement.
Mandy shared with us how Theraplay® works and who has been shown to derive the greatest benefit.
By creating an environment that is personal, physical and fun, Theraplay® seeks to develop a healthy interaction and foster a collaborative relationship between parents and children.
1) Kid-friendly Theraplay® is a play-based rather than language-based therapy, which makes it an especially effective treatment for young children. This form of structured play helps engage children who have not responded to more traditional therapy approaches while also helping them overcome obstacles without needing to talk about or verbally express problems.
2) Parent involvement Realizing that parents are the most important influence in a child’s life, Theraplay encourages the active participation of caregivers, which increases with each session. With continual support from a trained therapist, parents will improve interactions with their child through hands-on activities.
3) Active and personal sessions The main goal of Theraplay® is to foster a healthy communication between child and parent and teach methods of adequately responding to children’s behaviors in an emotional and cooperative manner. Parents will also meet one-on-one with the therapist to assess their child’s progress and at-home behavior.
4) Noticeable progress Once Theraplay® treatment begins, parents can see notable changes in their child’s behavior and demeanor. After the few first few sessions, which are mostly aimed for the therapist to get to know the parent(s) and child, progress will pick up significantly.
There are certain groups that Theraplay has been proven especially helpful to.
1) Children who have suffered separation, loss, abuse or neglect will develop confidence and trust in the parents’ ability to nurture and support them. The child will counteract past negative experiences by understanding that they are worthy of care, and will learn to follow rules, structure and limits.
2) Children with developmental, communication or sensory issues will learn how to read social cues, interpret others’ feelings, understand the give-and-take of social relationships and discover the upsides of interacting with others.
3) Children who are afraid of relating or attaching will relearn hard interactions in a new way to depict the positive aspects of relationships. Theraplay® will also find the root of their troublesome behaviors and teach parents to use support and nurture to diminish these behaviors.
4) Uninvolved parents will learn the importance of being present in their child’s life, ways to establish trust and how to reconnect with their child in a way that creates strong long-lasting bonds of attachment. Therapy sessions will also allow parents to focus all of their energy and attention on their child to help them feel loved and accepted.
Mandy uses an array of toys, games, books, arts and craft supplies and other items during her Theraplay® sessions.
To view The Cradle/Theraplay® wish list on Amazon, and donate items from the list, you can check it out here.