Group Theraplay® is an adaptation of the dyadic Theraplay model used with groups of children or parents and children. It was developed by Phyllis Rubin, Psy.D., in the 1980’s, and the original text, Play With Them: Theraplay Groups in the Classroom, is available for purchase in our online store.
Unlike other play group approaches, in a Theraplay Group learning takes place on a non-verbal level. Instead of talking about positive social behavior, the group leaders and children DO positive social interaction. Gradually, positive messages from the groups become part of the child’s internal sense of himself. When the needs of children for structure, engagement, nurture and challenge are attended to, the children begin to internalize this experience and extend it toward others spontaneously.
The Theraplay Group is an adult-directed, structured play group that incorporates playful, cooperative and nurturing activities that enhance emotional well-being. The Theraplay Group fosters a child's self-esteem, the sense of belonging, the ability to care for himself and others and the opportunity to develop increased trust. The four rules of a Theraplay Group -- NO HURTS, STICK TOGETHER, HAVE FUN, and THE ADULT IS IN CHARGE -- provide the framework for group experiences. Leaders create an atmosphere of fun, caring, acceptance and encouragement which allows children to grow socially, emotionally and often intellectually.
Rather than using external controls, a Theraplay Group promotes internal self-control and the desire to relate appropriately. Because a Theraplay Group is playful and upbeat, it appeals to children. It also can be a way to "teach" social and communication skills to older children. Finally, it is an excellent way to bring fun and exuberance into the lives of all children.
Theraplay Groups, while considered therapeutic, can benefit all children, not just those that need extra help. Today’s children face increasing pressure to achieve and perform from an earlier age, and often with less consistent family support than was common in the past. These children can benefit from the experience of being appreciated not for what they accomplish, but just because they ARE.
Theraplay Groups have been used by counselors and other mental health professionals in schools, pre-schools, residential settings, and family therapy. Training and Certification in Group Theraplay is available through The Theraplay Institute.
The Theraplay Group model has recently been adapted for use by teachers and others who do not have clinical training. For more information about Sunshine Circles, click here.