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Filial Therapy

Filial Therapy


Filial therapy is a creative way of working with children and their families, where the parents are the main agent for change and is based on child-centered play therapy skills. Having been taught the main play skills, the parents facilitate each session with direct and immediate feedback from the therapist. Filial therapy promotes a healthy and secure attachment between parent and child and involves the whole family where appropriate.


5 Stages of Filial Therapy


1. Initial assessment including family play observation and family observing the therapist using the filial play skills (parents and child/children are involved)

2. Teaching adults the 4 main skills (only parents are involved)

3. Supervised play sessions, where the therapist observes parents using their newly acquired play skills with their child. Feedback for the parents is then given by the therapist (parents and child/children are present)

4. Unsupervised play sessions at home, with the therapist giving feedback from recorded play sessions with the parents (parents and child/children are involved)

5. Ending phase including family play observation (parents and child/children are involved)

The total programme lasts around 20 x 1 hour sessions depending on the needs of the individual family.


4 Main Skills


1. Structuring 

Provide a clear message about the beginning and ending of the session along with how to manage/avoid any breaks required during a session e.g. toilet break

2. Empathic listening

To reflect on actions and feelings of the child, giving a sense of being emotionally present. The emphasis is placed on reflecting the feelings which are expressed by the child themselves or by the child through their play

3. Imaginary play

To be able to follow the child’s lead and accept the child’s directions as to what is required of the adult in order to be part of the child’s imaginary world.

4. Limit setting

Limits are kept to a minimum, giving a feeling of permission while stating clearly the few boundaries required for safety. We encourage the parent not to problem solve so as to help the child develop their own problem solving skills while teaching the child responsibility for their choices. 

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