Filial Therapy follows the basic concept that caregivers are more of experts on their children than therapists. Caregivers begin to see the meaning in their child’s behavior and become sensitive to their child’s emotions and learn how the child’s emotional development may impact the child’s behavior. In Filial Therapy the emphasis is on allowing the child to develop self-responsibility and self-control so that the child becomes responsible for taking care of problems in his or her life. Leading the playtime allows the child to experience what responsibility feels like. It provides the caregiver and child an opportunity for understanding and empathy, as well as, repair and recreation.
Sessions usually last 30 minutes. Just like in therapy with the play therapist, the child is the director of the caregiver and child’s time together. The child decides the activities or lack of activities and makes the executive decisions about roles, characters, toys and themes. The parent is there to be a non-judgmental, active, empathetic presence; acting as a mirror to the child’s experience, taking on roles the child assigns and engaging fully with the child free of distraction.
The caregiver, like the play therapist, will communicate four messages in play with the child:
I AM HERE.
I HEAR YOU.
I UNDERSTAND YOU.
I CARE ABOUT YOU.