Theraplay Sessions

Theraplay is appropriate for children of all ages, including babies, and when combined with other techniques, it is a great therapy for teenagers too. With Theraplay, family interaction patterns have improved and school professionals and pediatricians have reported positive changes in children’s behavior, self-esteem, and connections with others. Theraplay can help children who have experienced trauma begin to heal, can help children with developmental disorders feel more comfortable with social interaction, and can help families to experience happiness and connection.

The Theraplay Institute specializes in helping children with:

  • Shy, withdrawn, or clingy behavior
  • Acting-out, angry, or disruptive behavior
  • Defiant, oppositional or controlling behavior
  • Behavioral problems at school or with peers
  • Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Developmental disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • A history of trauma, abuse, or neglect
  • Attachment disorder due to adoption or multiple changes in living arrangements
  • A history of social deprivation due to living in an institution
  • Psychological trauma due to medical care or serious illness

At The Theraplay Institute, we understand that committing to therapy for your child is a major decision, often made when the family is in crises or has “tried everything else.” One of the major advantages of Theraplay is that change can happen very quickly once treatment begins. So, even though the first sessions are more about “getting to know you and your child”, you will probably notice significant progress shortly thereafter.

Your first appointment is an information-gathering interview, preferably with both parents. Next, we ask you and your child to complete a set of simple tasks together, such as make two toy animals play with each other. This is called the Marschak Interaction Method (MIM) assessment. The MIM is videotaped, and your therapist will look at the video in preparation for your next appointment at which you and your therapist will discuss the interaction between you and your child and the therapist’s recommendation for treatment.

At your next session, your therapist will demonstrate with you the Theraplay activities in order to familiarize you with what to expect. Theraplay activities are playful and fun, and done in combinations that focus on your child’s needs for structure, engagement, nurture and challenge—the four Theraplay dimensions.

Then, Theraplay treatment begins with your child. After every three Theraplay sessions, your therapist will meet with you without your child to discuss progress and goals and to help you support the Theraplay treatment at home.

Typically, the total number of sessions is 19-28, with four follow-up sessions over the next year.


Treatment Plan for Families Created Through Foster Care or Adoption

Children who have experienced separation, loss, trauma, multiple caregivers or institutional care typically need more help than the standard Theraplay treatment protocol described above.

Our assessment process may lead to a recommendation of more sessions, longer sessions or more frequent sessions. While Theraplay treatment is often recommended in the early appointments in order to strengthen the parent-child relationship (attachment), eventually your child might need to process the past using other protocols such as Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). Many of the therapists at The Theraplay Institute are cross-trained in DDP and experienced in combining it with Theraplay treatment.

A significant aspect of your treatment plan is supporting you in your role as an adoptive/foster parent. We will teach you about why your child behaves the way he does based upon the latest scientific research about the developing brain and attachment. You will learn why your child’s unique background requires a different parenting style than you might have expected—therapeutic parenting.

In all cases, our therapists will be sensitive to your family’s needs and make appropriate referrals for services that cannot be provided at the Institute.

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