In the 1960’s, Filial Therapy began as a dramatic challenge to prevailing approaches for mental health services for children. Not only did Filial Therapy include parents but Bernard G. Guerney, Jr. and his wife, Louise Fisher Guerney (the originators of Filial Therapy) believed that training parents to learn child-centered play therapy was an effective way to treat child problems. This innovative approach assumed that a shift to an educational/skill-training model could be as (or more) effective than the traditional medical model of treatment. An evidence-based approach, Filial Therapy has had a long history of research and practice as an intervention/prevention program with young children and their families. Filial Therapy teaches parents how to conduct weekly child-centered play sessions with their own children at their own home. This occurs in a constructive relationship context that is based on principles and methods of child-centered play therapy. When the Guerney’s began to develop this innovative approach, the family therapy movement was undergoing a phenomenal growth. They designed the program as a child-centered family therapy.
Filial Therapy is an integrative therapy incorporating the best elements of interpersonal, psychodynamic, client-centered, behavioral, family systems, and developmental perspectives. Filial Therapy is also an effective, evidence-based intervention that integrates family therapy and play therapy to address child and family problems. Therapists learn how to train and supervise parents as they conduct child-centered play therapy sessions at home with their own children (ages infancy to twelve years), an approach designed to resolve presenting problems while strengthening family relationships. Eventually, the therapist helps parents shift the play sessions to the home setting and to help parents generalize the skills they have learned. This powerful and effective intervention employs the parents as the primary change agents for their own children in the context of a collaborative therapeutic relationship.
In Filial Therapy, parents learn to conduct one-on-one child-centered play sessions with their own children. Parents then continue to hold weekly play sessions with their children at home for a period of six months to a year (or more depending on the child’s motivation). Modeled after child-centered play therapy, these half-hour play sessions occur in a highly structured context with few but clearly defined limits and consequences set by the adult. This context is designed to allow children to take the initiative and freely express themselves and it fosters self-regulation and independence. In turn, parents are asked to respond (acknowledge) their children’s initiative, behavior, expression, and underlying emotion with acceptance and without judgment.
Through the weekly practice of play sessions, children can improve their self concept, gain mastery, and learn to take responsibility for their actions. They become more aware of their own motivations and feelings. Concurrently, parents “soften,” become more empathic and receptive to their child’s motivations (emotions), and increasingly willing to trust in their child’s independence. Parents also learn to set effective limits and consequences, gaining confidence in their skills. In these ways, parents are better able to meet the needs of their children and keep them safe. Most importantly, children and parents may become more open to one another, more inclined to share their feelings with each other, and feel more securely attached to one another. This improved relationship fosters greater collaboration, which in turn can reduce conflict and negativity while improving child mastery and family stability.
Filial Therapy has been utilized successfully to help with a wide range of child and family challenges, including but not limited to:
• relationship problems
• oppositional behaviors
• family reunification
• single parenting
• traumatic events
• attachment disruptions
• foster care and adoption
• divorce adjustment
• family substance abuse
• chronic medical illness
A research history spanning over 40 years has consistently shown Filial Therapy to be a cost-effective method for facilitating positive, lasting child/family change. The use of this relatively short-term and empirically-based approach has increased dramatically in recent years due to its empowering, effective approach to strengthening families. Used in a variety of settings, Filial Therapy has been embraced by many different ethnic and cultural groups throughout the world because of its respectful involvement of parents as partners in the family change process.
This Web Conference presentation covers the theoretical and research foundations of Filial Therapy, emphasizing its practical use with a variety of problems. Participants will learn the sequence of the Filial Therapy process, and the methods by which parents are trained, supervised, and assisted to be change agents with their own children.
This Web Conference is designed to help clinicians:
1) Identify the importance of an educational skill-training approach that fosters attachment and stability in the family and its members;
2) Recognize the principles and methods of child-centered play therapy;
3) Tutor parents in conducting weekly child-centered play sessions at home;
4) Explain the structured, systematic, and time-designated nature of Filial Therapy;
5) Recognize the principles and methods of therapist leadership skills;
6) Apply and integrate Filial Therapy and/or aspects of this model in their own work.