Using theraplay to address attachment difficulties in adoptive families: exploring parent, child and therapist perspectives

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Theraplay is a structured approach to play therapy for children having difficulties forming attachments with their parents/guardians. Grounded in attachment theory, the method uses a controlled, directive approach whereby therapists guide parents and children through a series of activities designed to reflect interactions expected in healthy parent-child relationships (Jernberg, 1984). The technique is relatively new in terms of its existence and despite worldwide clinical application of the approach, research focussing specifically on the theraplay process is not extensive - especially in the UK. Due to the importance placed on the roles taken by the therapist, parent/guardian and the child in the process, the perceptions and experiences of all parties involved need to be understood. The purpose of this qualitative study therefore was to explore adoptive families’ conceptualisations and experiences of theraplay. Three therapists and two parents participated in semi-structured interviews and four children took part in activity sessions. Key themes were identified in relation to the perceived effectiveness of theraplay; the need for a holistic approach to therapy; experiences of frustration and the need for ongoing support. This paper will present the findings from the thematic analysis of the data, and discuss implications for the application of the theraplay model
Period25 Aug 201027 Aug 2010
Event title3rd Qualitative Research on Mental Health Conference (QRMH3): The Disabled Self: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches to Stigma and Recovery
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionNational