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Filial Play Therapy

How does filial play therapy work?

In traditional Non-Directive Play Therapy, the trained play therapist meets with parents or carers first and then works on his/her own with the child for a number of weeks or months. Every six weeks or so the play therapist meets with the parents to give feedback and discuss the child's needs and progress. But the parents do not normally see what happens in play therapy sessions; these are private to the child. Of course the child is free to tell the parent all about their play therapy if they choose to, but the therapist focuses on themes and meanings rather than details. In Filial therapy, the parent is present in every session and normally conducts the whole session themselves.

Filial Therapy usually takes 3-6 months to complete, and may last longer with follow-up sessions. Filial therapy is a very flexible model: providing that the essentials are taught to parents and followed through, it can be delivered and adapted in various ways to meet the circumstances. For instance, parents may attend a Filial therapy group (usually a minimum of 10 weeks) or be offered an individual Filial therapy intervention.

After the initial assessment of the family, the therapist spends two or three weeks training the parents in the basic Filial skills. Parents get to practise the skills several times before they hold the first play session with their child. Thereafter a parent will hold a 30-minute Filial session with their child every week at the same time, on the same day, and in the same place. Wherever possible, the therapist will watch the session and afterward (while the child is looked after by another adult) parent and therapist talk through what happened, looking for all the positive points and highlighting maybe one or two difficulties or questions. (In the group format for Filial therapy the therapist rarely watches sessions, but parents use video, audiotape or notes made immediately afterward as a basis for discussion at the next group meeting.)

Parents continue to hold a weekly 30-minute Filial session with their child for as long as necessary or as long as the child wants to. Many children enjoy their sessions so much that they choose to continue for many months! Parents also find that the time spent together in Filial play is so valuable and special that they are happy to do this. The therapist initially meets with parents once a week, but later this will change to fortnightly or monthly meetings, followed by a final "check up" after perhaps three or more months.

How Will Filial Therapy Benefit A Child and family?

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.


From "www.Filial" – introduction to filial therapy