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Theraplay® is an attachment therapy developed by Ann Jernberg and Phyllis Booth in the 1960's. It focuses on the parent-child relationship, aiming to strengthen bonding following separation, loss or trauma.


The approach is solidly supported by theory and research that emphasises the importance of the relationship itself and the interactions between the parent and child that leads to secure attachments and lifelong positive mental health.


In this approach the Therapist works directly with the parent/carer and their child together to give them an active, here and now experience of a new way of relating.


The therapist guides them in the experience of interacting in ways that facilitate attachment through the use of play, attuned interaction and nurturing touch to create joyful interaction. Attunement is where the parent / carer is able to respond to the child by matching their emotional state to help them manage their own feelings.


The therapy focuses on four basic dimensions of parenting:



The parent and child first engage in an assessment to review the use of the four dimensions using the Marschak Interaction Method (MIM). The assessment involves the parent/carer and child engaging in a selection of games and their pattern of interaction can be analysed.


The MIM enables the therapist to identify problem areas in the relationship, but also the strengths of both the adult and child and of their relationship.


The therapist and family will use this information to devise a therapy treatment plan.


The description of the relationship that results from the MIM can be useful when considering custody arrangements, reunification, foster placement and/or adoption.


Theraplay® is particularly useful with very young children and children who are not developmentally or emotionally prepared for non-directive play therapy or talking therapies.


Theraplay® can be especially effective for children who have suffered consistently mis-attuned care, early parental loss or later adoption. Theraplay® addresses the chronological age at which the trauma or loss occurred; it is a way to fill in lost opportunities in the parent-child relationship.


Further information can be found at www.theraplay.org

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