Theraplay: The Practitioner’s Guide

The Definitive Guide to Theraplay for Practitioners, officially endorsed by The Theraplay® Institute

Theraplay is an intervention that focuses on enhancing the connection, trust, and joy between a child and a parent. It involves interactive and playful activities using simple face-to-face reciprocal interactions Theraplay stimulates and makes use of all the senses, including rhythm, movement, and touch.

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This comprehensive guide outlines the theory, reflection, and skill development of the practitioner – the true power house of Theraplay. By maintaining a focus on practice throughout, embedding theory into practice examples, it brings the spirit of Theraplay to life. 

Part 1 covers the key principles of the intervention.

 Part 2 addresses Theraplay in Practice: how to use the Marschak Interaction Method (MIM), how to set up a room, and choose activities and considerations for working with different client groups

 Part 3 encourages the reader to engage in their own development and the stages involved.

 Part 4 and 5 provide a wealth of useful resources, checklists, handouts, sample sessions and an up-to-date list of Theraplay activities.

Whether you are a Theraplay Practitioner, or simply want to find out how this remarkable intervention works, this book is essential reading.


‘Theraplay is a terrific treatment for disorganized and traumatized kids. This book is highly recommended for all clinicians , teachers and other human beings trying to help children function and thrive !’
– Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. Author The Body keeps the Score

‘I have found the Theraplay approach to healing distressed children to be at the leading edge of humanistic, experiential and evidence-based treatments. What this clear volume offers are step-by-step precise protocols for assessment and treatment using this vital method. Various activities and exercises are simply described and can be applied to many therapeutic situations. The book is a rich contribution, not only for practitioners of Theraplay, but is truly a gift to all clinicians working to alleviate the suffering of troubled children.’
– Peter A Levine, PhD, Author (with Maggie Kline) of: Trauma through the Eyes of a Childs Eyes; Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing, and Trauma-Proofing your Kids; A Parent’s Guide for Instilling Confidence Joy and Resilience

‘In Theraplay: The Practitioner’s Guide, Vivien Norris and Dafna Lender skillfully and comprehensively explain the essential principles of Theraplay. Theraplay is an efficient mode of therapy for children that seamlessly incorporates within a play environment several elements that are shared with models of psychotherapy. In the Guide, we learn about efficient exercises that are effective in enhancing the child’s ability to regulate state can be delivered as games; we learn that Theraplay is rooted in developmental science (e.g., attachment theory) and is consistent with contemporary neuroscience (e.g., Polyvagal Theory). From a Polyvagal perspective Theraplay respects the biobehavior state of the child, applies therapist initiated social engagement strategies to trigger a state of safety in the child, and promotes synchronous reciprocal interactions as a neural exercise that increases social flexibility and improves emotion regulation. It is through this development of the child’s ability to feel safe and secure that is key to Theraplay’s efficacy and functionally illustrates the attributes of Theraplay as a model therapy for children.’
– Stephen W. Porges, PhD Distinguished University Scientist Kinsey Institute Indiana University Bloomington

‘Therapy is a cherished gift to be shared confidently with parents. The gift is deceptively simple and at the same time provides a complex and rich foundation for establishing or deepening attachment bonds. The approach is playful, engaging, safe, and designed to create positive shared memories of warm and attuned physical and emotional experiences between parents and children. This book took my breadth away in its congruence with the Theraplay approach: It is engaging to read, it provides ample and strong structure for the Theraplay practitioner, it challenges us to weave attachment theories with unique responses to clients, and it nurtures and encourages practitioners to provide the best possible assistance they can. Vivien Norris and Dafna Lenders’ expertise shines through as they provide a “virtual supervisor” type of guidance to the reader, answering many of the questions that we practitioners have as we negotiate our daily practices. Not only is this book a remarkable addition to the literature on Theraplay, it also succeeds in integrating current neuroscience and research to further guide and strengthen interactive clinical nuances. I will be reading this book multiple times because there are layers of important information to guide us in our work. I am left speechless with gratitude. It’s been many years since I’ve been so enlightened and re-energized by a book with such heart and substance!!’
– Eliana Gil, Ph.D. Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education

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