Theraplay, developed by Ann Jernberg, PhD, involves bringing a child back to the point in which his or her development began to express itself in maladaptive behaviors. This approach is founded on the belief that transformation can occur between a child and his or her parents in order to facilitate a more positive, productive, and cohesive relationship. Self-esteem often begins to deteriorate in childhood relationships, therefore activities used in Theraplay help the child recognize their emotional age rather than their chronological age at time of treatment. Parents are involved to the extent that they are encouraged to provide an empathetic and nonjudgmental environment in which the child can express their concerns and needs. The goal of Theraplay is to affect a change in self-perception and the perception of others.
In Theraplay, the child is both nurtured and challenged. Through calming activities, the parent figure provides a sense of caring to the child. This allows the child the ability to relax and to be assured that their basic needs will be met. Children with aggression, immaturity, or anger issues benefit immensely from this type of the therapy. The child learns to develop courage and confidence when asked to take age-appropriate risks. Challenging the child gives the child the opportunity to find him or herself, and discover his or her own abilities and desires.
Theraplay involves using effective treatment methods for longer periods of time. This reinforces beliefs and behaviors in children who are lacking the proper structure to develop in a healthy manner. Theraplay relies on the engagement of the child and the parent, but even when the parent cannot be present, this form of therapy can still benefit the child. Theraplay is structured in a nurturing environment in which the parent instructs the activities that are performed. The child’s emotional reaction is well noted, but the evidence of the parent as an authority figure is beneficial to the child and provides a sense of security and order. This rigid structure is extremely helpful to children who experience chaos, whether externally or internally. The parent will engage the child and will offer new and exciting opportunities of exploration. This interaction lays the foundation for trust and a respectful bond.
Last updated: 05-14-2013