Thursday, September 22, 2011

Empowering Parents Through Filial Therapy

As most of you know, I have my MA in counseling and am currently pursuing my Play Therapy Certification so I can specialize in working with kids (and adults!) using expressive arts and play to help clients grow and heal, rather than approaching therapy from a talk-based approach.

I start my final class for my certification tomorrow, and I couldn't be more excited. My last class was Filial Therapy, and I thought it was interesting enough to share with you :)

Filial therapy is basically this: the play therapist teaching the parents how to conduct their own play therapy sessions with their children, then providing support for the parents while they do this. The awesome thing about it is that once the parents are taught  these skills, they can use them any time with their kids for FREE. That's right folks, free. A word rarely associated with therapy. Additionally--one of the biggest issues I have with working with kids in a therapeutic setting is that you can't control the parents or home environment. With filial, you're not just working with a kid week after week and sending him back into the environment that likely contributed in the first place. No, you're also empowering the parents with tools  to help their kids work through issues.

How is it done?

The play therapist assesses the family's needs by talking to the parents and observing the whole family together in a non-directive play session (meaning you let the kid play without telling him/her what to do). Based on that discussion and observation, you determine if they would be a good fit for filial therapy. Then the therapist teaches the parents the skills, and role plays with them (sans child). When the parent feels comfortable enough to go for it, each parent conducts a separate play session with the child in the play therapist's play room, and the therapist observes. The parents get feedback, and then the next several sessions take place at home with just the parent and child (with weekly calls to the therapist for encouragement and feedback). The weekly home sessions are supposed to be 30 minutes once a week that the parent sets aside to dedicate to this "special play time".

Here are the skills: Structuring, Empathic Listening, Imaginative Play, Limit Setting

  • Structuring--letting the child know what to expect. "This is our special play time. We'll play for 30 minutes and then stop. In this room you can play with almost anything however you want, and if there's something you can't do, I'll tell you". Avoid listing every rule you can think of initially in order to allow the freedom of expressive play, but do provide structure. If that makes you too uneasy, you can also say "you can play with these toys any way you want, but you can't hurt the toys, you can't hurt the room, and you can't hurt me". 
  • Empathic listening--really watching the child's play and reflecting what they are doing and/or the emotion behind it. "You are banging those trucks together". "You are happy that the dolls are friends." "You like your picture you colored", etc. No praising or discussing your opinion. If you name the wrong emotion most kids will correct you. 
  • Imaginative play--This is easy for some, but does not come natural for everyone. Kids will almost always try to engage the adult in their play eventually. Play along! If they say "you are the kid and I'm the teacher", you should whisper "what do the kid say?". Let them dictate the play, but go ahead and enter their world.
  • Limit setting--When a child tests a boundary (and most inevitably will at some point), you set a limit "I am not for punching. What else could you punch?" If the child does the action again, you let them know that if it happens again, the play session will have to end, or that toy will be taken away, etc. You define your own limits. On the third time, you let the child know that you set the limit and they chose to break it, therefore the session is now over or the toy gets taken away, etc. 

Why is this so important?

Filial therapy can help children to express their feelings and fears through the natural activity of play.  Over time, children may:

Understand their own feelings better
Become able to express their feelings more appropriately
Be more able to tell parents what they need, what is worrying them
Become more confident and skilled in solving problems as well as asking for help when they need it
Reduce their problem behaviours
Feel more secure and trust their parents more
Have a more healthy self esteem and increase their self-confidence.

Filial therapy can help parents to:

Understand their child’s worries and other feelings more fully
Learn new skills for encouraging co-operation from their children
Enjoy playing with their children and giving them positive attention
Increase their listening skills and develop open communication with their children
Develop self confidence as parents
Become more able to trust their children
Deal in new ways with frustrations in family life

Filial therapy can help parents and children to form closer and happier relationships.

So there :) For more info, check out THIS LINK!

1 comment:

The Turners said...

This is great. Thanks for sharing!!