Filial Therapy: Treating Social, Emotional, And Behavioral Concerns In Children

By Nadia Khan

Updated December 07, 2018


While most therapies require the involvement of a therapist, filial therapy is a type of therapy that centers around the relationship between a child and his or her parents or guardians.

Designed explicitly for the development of children between the ages 3 to 12, filial therapy is a type of play therapy, or therapeutic sessions in which a child expresses themselves and learns through the act of play.

How Does Filial Therapy Work?

As was stated by Nina Rye, during other play therapies, a therapist would meet the parents first. The child's developmental, behavioral, and learning issues, as well as the parent or guardian's involvement and parental techniques, will be discussed. After that, the therapist will work with the child over a matter of weeks or months.

Aside from regular progress reports, parents are hardly involved in those therapies, though communication between child and parents are always encouraged.

In filial therapy, however, the parents are around every session. They will even run most of the session themselves. In fact, a therapist will only spend about 2-3 minutes of the first few sessions teaching the parents how to run filial therapy in addition to basic play practices and effective parenting methods.


The parents or guardians will then run the following sessions within the next 3-6 months, depending whether or not they wish to have follow-up sessions with the therapist.

The entire point, purpose, and focus of filial therapy is to promote growth and strengthen relationships in a family.

Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Benefits of Filial Therapy for Both Children and Parents

During filial therapy, children will have a safe and fun outlet to express themselves and communicate with their parents. Likewise, parents can increase their listening skills, which will help them better understand their children, thus establishing trust, which can further develop their confidence as parents.

Allotting this bonding time between child and parents can allow parents to pay special attention to their child, which can boost the child's self-esteem, reduce any troubling behavior, and better the relationship between the child and parents overall.

Filial therapy can also provide as a suitable location for a child to improve his or her problem-solving skills through the act of play and give the parents the opportunity to learn how to handle frustrating situations through the parenting techniques that they learned through the therapist in earlier sessions.


Other Means of Expression

Yet another way for a child or parent to express the tension between their relationship is to talk about these concerns in a talk therapy such as those that are offered through BetterHelp, an online platform that allows the client to speak to a professional through messaging, by phone, or by video chat.

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