What is Theraplay?

You may have heard of “play therapy” for children but  have your ever heard of TheraPlay? This pioneering approach to attachment-based, family therapy is one that I have been practicing for many years and still find it one of the most practical approaches to working with families, particularly children who have endured trauma. 

Theraplay is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent and child and is personal, physical, and fun. Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge. Theraplay sessions create an active, emotional connection between the child and parent or caregiver, resulting in a changed view of the self as worthy and lovable and of relationships as positive and rewarding.

In treatment, the Theraplay therapist guides the parent and child through playful, fun games, developmentally challenging activities, and tender, nurturing activities. The very act of engaging each other in this way helps the parent regulate the child’s behavior and communicate love, joy, and safety to the child. It helps the child feel secure, cared for, connected and worthy.

We call this “building relationships from the inside out.””

Identifying Teens at Risk for PTSD:

Many teens are exposed to emotionally traumatic events, putting them at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A new study found online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry helps clinicians target those who are most vulnerable to developing PTSD.

Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed data on 6,483 teen–parent pairs from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a survey of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in the United States.

They discovered that 61 percent of the teens (ages 13 to 17) had been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event in their lifetime, including interpersonal violence (such as rape, physical abuse or witnessing domestic violence), injuries, natural disasters and the death of a close friend or family member.

Nineteen percent had experienced three or more such events.

Investigators determined the risk factors associated most strongly with trauma exposure included:

  • Lack of both biological parents in the home;
  • Pre-existing mental disorders, particularly behavioral disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional-defiant disorder.

Of all teens exposed to trauma, 4.7 percent had experienced PTSD under DSM-IV diagnostic criteria.

Risk factors for PTSD included:

  • Female gender: Of the total sample, girls had a lifetime prevalence of PTSD of 7.3 percent, and boys 2.2 percent;
  • Events involving interpersonal violence: the lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 39 percent for teens who had been raped and 25 percent for those physically abused by a caregiver;
  • Underlying anxiety and mood disorders (also a risk factor for exposure).

Recovery from PTSD was complicated if the teen:

  • Had underlying bipolar disorder;
  • Was exposed to an additional traumatic event;
  • Lived in poverty;
  • Was a U.S. native.

Need help for your teenager and live in the Redding, California area? Ron Huxley, founder of the Parenting Toolbox, is open to helping families through his private practice starting September 2013. If you prefer a consultation (not therapy) via Skype or email, click on the “Parenting Answers” link here or contact Ron at rehuxley@gmail.com.