Filial Therapy

Filial Therapy
Compiled by Bettie Antrim

Filial therapy incorporates a child’s parents to help emotionally disturbed children. The parents act as the child’s partner and together they use communicate together through play. Therefore parents become the catalyst for changing some of their child’s emotional or behavior problems.

Parents are taught play therapy principles:

• Recognizing and responding to children’s feelings
• Limit setting
• Building self esteem
• Empathic listening skills
• Child-centered imaginary play
• Understanding play themes

The goal for the parents is to create a warm, loving, supportive and safe play environment where a child, “feels safe to explore the parent-child relationship and themselves, including fears, desires, feelings, and struggles”.

During training parents are taught skills such as increasing sensitivity to their child, refection of feelings, and limit setting. When the play session occurs, parent need to allow the child to guide the play. Parents should remain empathetic, non-critical and compliant to all their child’s ideas and directions in playing.

Children will become more open and trusting of their parents as they interact in these sessions. The child is allowed to expresses herself without being inhibited by their parents, the child feels good about herself. She is less likely to have anxiety and will be more likely to face her feelings and frustrations rather than try to hide them. When parents are able to communicate effectively their future relationship and the child feels a sense of worth.


Family Connections Counseling Center, LLC

Eric Digest
ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education
December 2002
Author: Brandy Schumann, M.S., N.C.C., L.P.C.I., is a Doctoral Student of Counseling at the University of North Texas and a Doctoral Counseling Intern at the Child and Family Resource Clinic.