I have helped families have greater understanding of their relational dynamics, acknowledge their inherent strengths, speak from their hearts, cultivate greater empathy for each family member, resolve underlying tensions, and better comprehend the meaning of their children's behaviors.
During the assessment phase, I meet with parents to gather family history, information about the current situation and challenges, and what interventions parents have already tried. I encourage the whole family to come in for the next session so I can understand more about your family's dynamics and for your child to get familiar with the space. I meet with parents again to provide recommendations for therapy and collaborate with you about goals and next steps to best support your child and family.
All parents strive for loving and deep connections with their children, but sometimes conflicts and power struggles arise and get in the way of sharing sweet moments together. I come from a strengths-based perspective and help parents look at their triggers to guide and provide them with tools. Sometimes looking at your family of origin dynamics is useful to understand what might be getting in the way of responding appropriately and being present with your child in the moment. We might look at best ways to co-parent after a separation, use contingency plans and limit setting, and employ effective parenting strategies for challenging behaviors.
Filial therapy is a well-studied, evidence based treatment. Research shows it can benefit both parents and children by facilitating improved relationships and often leading to marked improvement when children face behavioral and psychosocial challenges and transitions. Filial is parent-child relational therapy for parents who would like to work directly with their child to build trust and strengthen their bond. It is a culturally sensitive psychotherapeutic educational model for parents who want to learn tools to directly support their child.
This methodology is indicated for children ages 3-11 years old and especially when there has been a particularly challenging separation or contentious relationship between parents, as it supports the bond between each parent and their child.
I coach parents to learn new ways of relating to their child in special play sessions in the office and eventually at home. I guide you to learn new types of interventions that are supportive when your child is going through challenging times due to normal developmental growth cycles that can leave parents feeling confused and frustrated or due to big transitions such as adoption, going to a new school, a death in the family, a new sibling, separation or divorce.
It’s much like child-centered (or non-directive) play therapy in that parents learn how to use skills that a child therapist utilizes such as empathic listening (being very present with the child’s emotions, reactions, behavior), as well as clear structure and limit setting that help your child develop self-responsibility. Together, we look at themes that emerge during play in order to better respond to the struggles happening in the child’s internal world. I coach parents directly to learn some child-centered play therapy skills, model the methodology, and give support with how to generalize these skills to everyday life.
The skills training is very supportive for the parents and of course the children also benefit because they're getting special attention in a new way from their parents! Throughout the process, the child's sense of trust and healthy attachment to you increases and they have the experience of feeling more deeply understood. The result is that the relationship is strengthened, parents are more attuned to what’s going on internally with their child when there are challenges and more able to navigate and assuage difficult behaviors at home. Parents and I work collaboratively to come up with specific interventions you can implement outside of our sessions.
Sequence of Filial sessions
So you can be more prepared about what to expect in this process, I have outlined a general format of the sequence of sessions. It can vary as families have different needs, but in general, expect that you will come in for about 20-25 sessions.
2 sessions: Initial evaluation & assessment
I gather family history and information about challenges and goals. Family therapy session with entire family (when indicated).
1 session: You witness non-directive play therapy
I demonstrate a modified child-centered play therapy session with your child as you observe the skills that you will learn to hold special play sessions. I address any questions you have, give recommendations for therapy, and collaborate with you about the next steps.
3 sessions: Mock play (Parents learn Filial skills)
We work together so that you can learn the skills. I support and give feedback about how to conduct the special play sessions with your child through lively and fun role plays, feedback, and discussion.
Filial play therapy
Once you feel that you grasp the methods and structure of conducting the special play sessions, you bring in your child so I can observe. I will give feedback and answer questions afterwards (either in person or on the phone another time, depending on child care needs).
Transferring special play sessions from in-office to home
I support you in managing how to conduct the half hour sessions at home with your child. We can have in person or phone consultations to continue discussing progress and issues that may arise. We look at how to apply these skills in your life outside of the special play sessions.
4 sessions: Discharge planning & final assessment
As the parent-child bond grows stronger and behavior improves, we determine the need to observe another filial session with you and your child and ongoing support.
In Filial & Family Therapy,