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How Filial Therapy Can Improve Your Relationship with Your Child

Parents — Do You Feel Like Flipping Your Lid!?  If you, like many parents, find yourself frequently at wit’s end when it comes to child rearing, you are not alone. Children have the unique ability to make us want to scream at and hug them simultaneously. While conflicting thoughts and feelings toward your child are sometimes unavoidable, those left unexpressed or unresolved may cause more serious problems in your relationship.

Enter filial therapy. No, we’re not suggesting you buy a pony

for your often difficult offspring! “Filial” simply means, “having the relation of a child to a parent” and “therapy” of course refers to “any act, task, or program that relieves tension.” A clinically-proven way to relieve tension in your parent/child relationship? Now, we’re talking!

A similar concept, play therapy allows children to express themselves through what has been called the “language of childhood” — play. Play therapy is particularly helpful for children who have language challenges or are simply reluctant to express their feelings; it is also a valuable tool in developing the brain, self-confidence, creativity and problem-solving skills. Playfulness is closely associated with good mental health, important for children and parents alike. The main difference between “play” therapy and “filial” therapy, however, is that play therapy typically occurs between a therapist and child client, whereas in filial therapy parents learn to conduct the play sessions with their own children.

Though some parents initially express doubt that filial therapy will help their child, once they learn the specifics of this parent-directed play therapy they usually change their minds, delighted with the results. Filial therapy involves:

  • A structured, safe setting for both parent and child (initially at the therapist’s office and eventually in your own home)
  • “Empathetic listening” — learning how to really listen to your child in a non-judgmental way and understand what it is he or she is trying to express
  • Child-centered imaginary play and how to respond appropriately
  • A set of rules and boundaries to teach limits and consequences

 Parental feedback is a key component of filial therapy. While most sessions will be conducted between the parent and therapist only, there may be one or two sessions that involve the child, parent and therapist. Filial therapy is available on an individual basis but may also be conducted in a group setting.

Ultimately, the goal of filial therapy is three-fold:

  1. To improve the child’s self-esteem and communication skills
  2. To provide parents with a greater sense of confidence in their parenting skills, both everyday and in highly challenging situations
  3. To open the door to love and communication between parent and child — and have fun while doing it!


For more information on filial therapy, click here.

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