February 5, 2014

An Introduction to Filial Therapy

By: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT - Guest Blogger
The relationship between a child and their parent affects an individual’s psychological and emotional health throughout their life. When a healthy bond is not formed, or when other problems arise in the home, children are often brought to a child therapist for concerns, such as difficulties with peers, behavior problems, anxiety, or depression. In addition to treating these symptoms with individual and family therapy, many play therapists choose to incorporate a filial therapy model in their treatment approach.
Filial therapy, a widely used therapeutic approach developed by Bernard and Louise Guerney, aims to create, maintain, or improve the bond between a parent and child. After learning basic play therapy skills from a trained play therapist, parents conduct their own play sessions with the child, either in the therapist’s office or in the home. Similar to sessions conducted with a play therapist, the parent-child play time involves the use of carefully selected play therapy toys, child-directed play, reflecting feeling, tracking play, and limit setting.
Filial therapy is effective for many reasons:
  • Parents are asked to limit distractions, making the interaction between parent and child the primary focus.
  • Since the play is child-directed, the parent learns new information about their child they would not notice otherwise, and a stronger bond forms as a result.
  • The child is provided an opportunity to lead the play, gaining a sense of control, acceptance from the parent, and self-confidence.
  • The child may begin to view their parent as an ally and a more supportive person in their life.
  • Since the time is specifically set aside for special play time together, a child’s sense of self-worth improves. The parent is showing them that they are worth devoting their time and attention to, even in the midst of life’s other demands.
Filial therapy continues to gain popularity with therapists for its effectiveness in promoting healthy bonds between parent and child. This tool is not meant as a replacement for individual and family therapy. Rather, it is a valuable adjunct to these services, facilitating the healing of broken relationships and improving confidence in both parent and child.  

Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and Registered Play Therapist in Kingwood, Texas. She is the founder and owner of Kingwood Counseling & Play Therapy, where provides psychotherapy for individuals, families, and couples, as well as clinical supervision for LPC Interns. Kim is also committed to educating the community through her popular blog Kim's Counseling Corner.
Email Kim at kim@kimscounseling.com for more information. 

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