Filial Family Therapy is a parent–child play therapy for children aged 2–12, and their parents, in which trained mental health professionals teach parents skills for fostering relationships with their children and supervise parent–child play therapy sessions. The central goals of the therapy are to reduce emotional distress and problem behaviors in children, improve competence and self-esteem in children, strengthen the parent–child relationship, and improve parenting skills.
The therapy model was first developed in the 1960s, by Bernard Guerney, Jr., and Louise Guerney, as an adaptation of Child-Centered Play Therapy. With the addition of a parent skills-training component, Filial Family Therapy teaches parents to conduct therapeutically oriented play sessions with their children and provides them with continued therapist supervision for reinforcing positive parenting behaviors.
The therapy sessions are typically delivered weekly for 10 consecutive weeks. The 2-hour sessions include both parent skills training and parent–child play. The therapy takes place in small group or individual family sessions, in which parents are taught play therapy principles to use with their children. The parenting skills are practiced and reinforced with role playing, reviewing recorded play sessions, and other methods of instruction. Parents then employ the newly acquired skills during weekly parent–child play sessions, which are supervised by therapists who provide coaching and reinforcement during play time.