For Parents

Theraplay® is a child and family therapy that focuses on improving the child’s behavioral and emotional challenges through the parent-child relationship. In a session, the therapist guides the parent and child through playful games, challenging activities, and nurturing interactions. Theraplay helps the child experience previously difficult interactions in new ways, helps overcome fear and increase trust, and creates a positive change in the child’s sense of self. Theraplay® helps the parent be attuned to the child, understand the motives of the child’s behavior and the underlying needs, manage environmental stimuli, and carefully challenge the child in a safe place. While other therapies may work primarily with the child alone or work with parents on managing the child’s behaviors, Theraplay focuses on the parent-child relationship as the most powerful and influential element for change.

How does Theraplay® differ from other types of child therapy?
• It directly involves the parents or caregivers
• It is active, interpersonal and fun—not “talk therapy”
• Progress can be made quickly
• It focuses on the “here and now,” not what happened in the past
• Since it does not involve verbal or symbolic understanding, it can be used with very young children, children with developmental delays and children with traumatic experiences early in life
• The “Theraplay way” flows easily from the clinical setting to the home for long-term results
• Theraplay treatment is appropriate for all ages—infancy through adolescence

Theraplay® has been used successfully to help children experiencing a variety of challenges:
• Acting out, angry or disruptive behavior
• Defiant or controlling behavior
• Shy, withdrawn or clingy behavior
• Depression
• Anxiety and Selective Mutism
• Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and other Developmental Disorders
• Attention and hyperactivity concerns
• Social interaction
• A history of trauma or neglect
• Attachment issues due to adoption or multiple family placements
• Medical trauma

About The Theraplay Institute
The Theraplay Institute has been an innovator and an educator in the field of children’s mental health for over 40 years. Since its establishment in 1971, the Theraplay Institute has trained mental health professionals, educators, and healthcare providers all over the world. The clinical model, Theraplay®, has been continually updated to reflect scientific advances in neurological, developmental, and social-emotional challenges that affect children and their families. The third edition of Theraplay: Helping Parents and Children Build Better Relationships Through Attachment-based Play was published in 2010.

Visit for more information about the history of Theraplay, research, and publications.