Module 1: Theraplay Theory and Concepts


Theraplay® is a child and family modality of play therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. Rated as “effective” by the SAMHSA National Registry for Evidenced–Based Programs and Practices, it is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent and child and is personal, physical, and fun. Theraplay play therapy interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge. Theraplay play therapy sessions create an active, emotional connection between the child and parent or caregiver, resulting in a changed view of the self as worthy and lovable and of relationships as positive and rewarding. Theraplay helps you create a playful atmosphere where children are happy to experience the intervention, thus allowing them to quickly become fully engaged in the therapeutic process. Theraplay also involves the parents in an immediate and positive way, giving them experiences of success and pride in their children so they can feel motivated to support them. With the child, the parent, and the therapist, all on the same team, you have a winning combination for positive and lasting change. The first of the six-part training is designed to teach participants the fundamentals of the Theraplay model.

Prerequisite: None
CEs: 6
Required for certification

Upcoming training

This training:

  • Provides an overview of the leading theories in mental health today and how they apply to and support Theraplay specifically.
  • Outlines how attachments are formed, what contributes to building healthy attachment and what experiences challenge attachment.
  • Explains how a child’s Inner Working Model is developed and how that IWM informs all future relationships
  • Provides an overview of each dimension of Theraplay, including how Structure, Engagement, Nurture and Challenge are defined and used in providing mental health support to families
  • Explains how attachment affects regulation and illustrates the power of attuned relationship in expanding a child’s ability to self regulate
  • Video of Theraplay treatment with many different clients in addition to the demonstration family

  1. Differentiate three play, attachment-based theories and how they support the work of Theraplay
  2. Distinguish how children with various attachment styles present in play therapy sessions
  3. Name the three characteristics of healthy attachment
  4. Identify the four dimensions of Theraplay, a modality of play therapy
  5. Describe how healthy attachment influences self-regulation
  6. Demonstrate one play-based activity from each dimension: Structure, Engagement, Nurture and Challenge

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