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Theraplay as a Useful Play Therapy Approach When Working with Child Sexual Abuse

July 17, 2020 @ 11:00 am - 1:15 pm CDT

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2 CEs
*CEs only available for those licensed in the US
This webinar will NOT be recorded

Theraplay as a Useful Play Therapy Approach When Working with Child Sexual Abuse

Presented by Eliana Gil, Ph.D. & Elizabeth Konrath, LPC, RPT-S

Theraplay is a dyadic, attachment-based, play therapy approach that is usually provided to establish or strengthen caregiver-child relationships by utilizing behaviors that have been identified in securely attached caregiver-child dyads. In cases of child sexual abuse, many interpersonal and relational dynamics become confused and a broad range of affective responses can become negatively correlated. For example, children who are touched sexually by siblings or parents, may develop fear or anxiety associated with touch. Children may also experience compartmentalized feelings regarding abuse that is kept secret.  In addition, family relationships can become distant or conflicted, not only between the caregiver-child dyad where the abuse occurs, but between children and their caregivers, siblings, grandparents, and others, who may no longer be seen as resources. A typical referral for Theraplay play therapy treatment is when non-abusive caregivers reach out because their children are dysregulated, self-isolating, or demonstrating a range of behavioral concerns that signal the child’s distress. Sometimes referrals occur once abuse has been identified, or even before. Having a contextual understanding of the impact of child sexual abuse, and developing confidence in caregiver-child dyadic play therapy work using Theraplay, are primary topics in this workshop.


  • List three domains where traumatic impact usually occurs
  • Summarize two ways that relational interactions are compromised in child sexual abuse and where these are seen in play therapy interactions
  • List three ways that Theraplay approaches can address and improve family relationships in child sexual abuse cases in play therapy sessions


Eliana Gil is an adjunct Theraplay Trainer is in group private practice at Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery & Education, in Fairfax, Virginia ( where she provides therapy, consulting, supervision, and training services. Dr. Gil is Director of Starbright Training Institute for Child and Family Play Therapy where she provides three and four-day trainings on family play therapy and specialized therapy with youth (and their families) who experience childhood trauma. In the last decade Eliana has directed two child sexual abuse treatment programs in northern Virginia (Inova Kellar Center and Childhelp Children’s Center of Virginia) and she has worked in the field of child abuse prevention and treatment for the last forty years.

Dr. Gil consults and trains locally and across the country and she is an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Tech’s Family Therapy Department. She is a Registered Play Therapy Supervisor, Registered Art Therapist, and a licensed Marriage, Family, Child Counselor who received her doctorate in family therapy from the California Graduate School of Family Psychology in San Rafael, California. She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and the National Resource Center on Child Sexual Abuse. She is also a former President of the Association for Play Therapy. In the last two years, Dr. Gil completed a two-year individual certification process in the Neurosequential Model of Therapy. Dr. Gil is also a Certified Parent Education provider for Circle of Security ( In 2012, Dr. Gil received the Association for Play Therapy’s Lifetime Achievement Award and has received honors from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children as well as the American Academy of Family Therapy.

Her most recent books are Helping Abused and Traumatized Children: Integrating Directive and Nondirective Approaches and Helping Children Heal from Interpersonal Trauma: The Power of Play. Other books include Cultural Issues in Play Therapy (with Dr. Athena Drewes); Treating Abused Adolescents; Systemic Treatment of Families who Abuse; The Healing Power of Play; Play in Family Therapy; and Sexualized Children: Assessment and Treatment of Sexualized Children and Children who Molest (with Dr. Toni Cavanagh Johnson). Several of her books have been translated to other languages, including Spanish. Dr. Gil recently collaborated with Dr. Jennifer Shaw to co-author a book for children called “A Kid’s Book About Touching, Touching Problems, and Other Stuff.”

Elizabeth Konrath is a certified Theraplay ® Practitioner and a Registered Play Therapist- Supervisor. Elizabeth spent five years in community mental health providing therapy for children in the foster care system in Washington D.C. before moving into private practice, where she specialized in working with children who had relational trauma and attachment issues. She has been in private practice since 2011, both in the D.C. area and since relocating to Boulder, Colorado. She has extensive training in trauma, particularly working with children, adolescents, and families whose lives are affected by physical abuse, sexual abuse, family violence, neglect, bullying, and attachment issues related to adoption. Elizabeth values the importance of working with the whole family system to heal from trauma, improve mental wellness, and adjust to changes in the family dynamic.


Blaustein, M. & Kinniburgh, K. (2018). Treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents: How to foster resilience through attachment, self-regulation, and competency, Second Edition. New York: Guilford Press.

Finkelhor, D.(2009). The prevention of childhood sexual abuse. The Future of Children, 19(2): 169-194.

Felitti, V, Anda, R, Nordenberg, D., et al (2019). Relationship of childhood abuse and household disfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: the adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study. American Journal of Preventative Medicine 56(6), 774-786.

Gaskill, R., Perry, B. (2013). The neurobiological power of play: Using the neurosequential model of therapeutics to guide play in the healing process. In C. Malchiodi & D.A. Crenshaw(Eds) Play and Creative Arts Therapy for Attachment Problems (pp. 178-194). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Gil, E. (2012). Trauma-focused integrated play therapy (TF-IPT). In P. Goodyear-Brown (Ed.), Handbook of child sexual abuse: Identification, assessment, and treatment (pp. 251-278). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Gil, E. (2006). Helping abused and traumatized children: Integrating directive and nondirective approaches. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Types of Trauma, Sexual Abuse. (August 10, 2019). Retrieved from:

Perry, B. D. (2006). Applying principles of neurodevelopment to clinical work with maltreated and traumatized children. In N. B. Webb (Ed), Working with traumatized youth in child welfare, 27-52, NY: Guilford Press.

Perry, B., & Dobson, C (2010). The role of healthy relational interactions in buffering the impact of childhood trauma. In E. Gil (Ed) Working with Children to Heal Interpersonal Trauma: The Power of Play. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Porges, S. (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication and Self-regulation. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Ports, K., Ford, D., Merrick, M. (2016). Adverse childhood experiences and sexual victimization in adulthood. Child Abuse and Neglect, 51, 313-322.

Rubin, Lender, and Mroz-Miller (2010). Theraplay for children with histories of complex trauma. In P. Booth (Ed) Theraplay: Helping parents and children build better relationships through attachment-based play. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. London: Penguin Books.


11:00-11:55 The impact of child sexual abuse on children:
Consensus of primary therapy target areas
11:55-12:10 Break
12:10-12:15 How the Theraplay approach is useful in
repairing relational disruptions after sexual abuse
12:45-1:15 Questions

There is no conflict of interest or commercial support for this program.

This is a non-contact live virtual webinar.

Visit our FAQs here for cancellation policies

Download CE information here

For those seeking CEs, participants will receive an email from R. Cassidy Seminars within a few days of the conclusion of the Summer Learning Institute. Upon completion of the course evaluation, the certificate of completion will be made available.


July 17, 2020
11:00 am - 1:15 pm CDT
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