Theraplay ®

Theraplay® was developed in the 1960’s in Chicago USA. Theraplay® is an interactive play therapy designed to enhance attachments between parents or care providers with children. Theraplay® activities are playful, fun and developmentally enhancing and are designed to be practiced with a therapist as well as at home.

Theraplay® promotes the relationship between child and parent or their care provider through fostering warm, structured, nurturing and engaging interactions. Parents or care providers are central to the therapy and this model teaches them how to help their child engage in a more loving relationship with their parents or care providers, how to use challenges to build competence and self-esteem and how to infuse their interactions with the sheer fun of joyful play.

Theraplay® can be used where children and young people and their families are at crisis point and the relationship is at risk of breakdown, possibly leading to children and young people being taken into care.

Secure attachment behaviour is only possible when a child is not living in a state of constant traumatisation. Theraplay® theorists have identified four essential elements for secure attachment:

  • Appropriate level of structure
  • Nurture
  • Engagement
  • Developmental Challenge

In Theraplay®, the first step is an assessment of these four elements in the child-parent or care provider relationship. The outcome of this assessment will determine the sort of activities that the therapist will support the child and parent or carer to engage in. Each activity will work to redress any imbalance or deficit in the four elements.

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